FLYBE and Loganair are to significantly reduce credit and debit card charges for flights between Shetland and the mainland following a sustained public campaign led by The Shetland Times.
From Sunday 23rd November the airlines, franchise partners on the routes in and out of Sumburgh, will charge a flat fee of £4 per passenger per booking for credit cards and there will be no charge for using a debit card.
The new terms match those called for in a petition, signed by hundreds of Shetlanders, raised by The Shetland Times after complaints from readers and local politicians.
Flybe/Loganair had been charging £3.50 per passenger per flight with a minimum charge of £5.50 for credit card bookings and £1.50 per passenger per flight for debit card bookings.
The announcement was made early on Wednesday morning, hours before officials from Loganair were due to appear at Shetland’s External Transport Forum.
In a separate move, Flybe announced that it was capping the credit card booking fees charged to those customers using the company’s connections service to one outbound charge – irrespective of the number of onward connections made – and one inbound charge irrespective of the number of inbound connections made.
Loganair’s new chief executive, David Harrison, said: “Loganair have been serving the Highlands and Islands for more than three decades and our success has not only been because of a first class product but because we listen to our passengers.
“We are very conscious that we operate lifeline services and that’s why Loganair is choosing to fund the price difference between the Flybe charge and the Loganair charge.”
Mr Harrison continued: “Our adoption of a Flybe franchise brings enormous benefits of connectivity and marketing, bringing many more inbound business and leisure passengers than our previous arrangements brought. These changes will hopefully allow everyone, both passengers and media, to concentrate on these benefits.”
Mike Rutter, Flybe’s chief commercial officer, said: “Flybe are delighted with the number of passengers choosing to make connections on the Flybe network using ‘Flybe Connections’. The response has been beyond our highest expectations. These changes will incentivise passengers even further to use this great facility as it provides a 50 per cent saving on current charges.”
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott welcomed the move as a step in the right direction, but said more needed to be done to remove the extra charges added by Flybe when it took over the booking system for the flights.
He said: “The imposition of a charge to use debit cards was wrong and I am pleased that it has been dropped. The news on the credit card charge changes … is a step in the right direction, unless of course you are booking a single flight and not a return, but I still feel that the charge is too high and I cannot see why, when a family of four makes a booking with a single card transaction, they have to pay the charge for each passenger.
“The charge for booking a particular seat remains, and I still believe that this cannot be justified. I cannot see how it costs the airlines anything to make such a booking. It is really just a tax on families and other groups and it must go.
“The bottom line is that we should not be paying any more now than we paid when the flights were run as a BA franchise.”
He said the move to Flybe, “supposedly a low cost operator”, should have pushed the cost of flying down but the extra charges had pushed it up.