Loganair is to increase ticket prices by an average of two per cent next year and stop serving alcoholic and soft drinks to passengers.
The company, which operates the Flybe franchise, said it had been forced to increase fares to reflect rises in landing and passenger charges imposed by Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) and air traffic control charges at major airports such as Aberdeen.
Commercial director Jonathan Hinkles insisted the below-inflation increase was lower than that announced by other trans-Scotland transport providers, including ferry and rail operators.
Loganair’s pre-tax profits fell in the year to 31st March to £2.5 million from £3.1 million.
Mr Hinkles said passengers would have the opportunity to beat the increase by booking flights at the current price up to and including Friday 31st December.
In response to an inquiry from The Shetland Times early this afternoon a spokeswoman for Loganair’s PR firm, the Big Partnership, said the company planned to charge for alcoholic and soft drinks.
However, she later phoned to apologise for giving the wrong information. From Monday 10th January there will be no alcoholic and soft drinks available on Loganair flights.
Passengers will, however, continue to be offered complimentary tea, coffee, water and orange juice on all flights of 45 minutes or longer, along with cereal bars on early flights and biscuits on mid-morning services.
Mr Hinkles said: “In making this decision, we had to choose between continuing to provide free alcohol for a minority of our customers at a significant cost or cutting the service and keeping our fare increases below inflation for the benefit of all who choose to fly with us. We believe we have made the right decision, which offers the fairest outcome and will benefit the largest number of our passengers.
“The rise in costs for new bookings from 1st January has, unfortunately, been unavoidable. We have continued to experience inflation-based increases in costs, such as Highlands and Islands Airports’ landing and passenger charges, and 2011 will see a further 20 per cent rise in the cost of air traffic control provision at major airports, including Aberdeen.
“However, we have done everything in our power to keep the increases below the rate of inflation to minimise increases and keep air travel with Loganair as affordable and convenient as ever.”
The airline is also altering its terms and conditions to make it easier and cheaper for passengers who arrive at airports ahead of time to take an earlier flight to their destination.
Provided that seats are available and the addition of an extra passenger will not delay the plane’s departure, fliers can choose to take the earlier service for a flat fee of £32.50 instead of paying a fee plus the difference in fare as at present.
These changes can only be made in person on arrival at the airport to avoid the possibility of passengers missing their earlier flight after rebooking. Passengers with Economy Plus tickets can still change their tickets on the day of departure without charge, provided that the change is made prior to their original intended time of departure.
Mr Hinkles added: “Our aim is to make it simpler and more affordable for people to hop on an earlier flight, which will be of great benefit to passengers on our busier routes, such as Aberdeen to Kirkwall and Sumburgh and from Glasgow and Inverness to Stornoway.
“The new policy will also help those passengers who miss flights by a narrow margin to re-arrange their travel plans without incurring significant cost. We’re pleased that our passengers will be able to enjoy a marked improvement in the flexibility of our services.”