A Facebook campaign against the staggering cost of flying to and from Scottish islands has gained thousands of followers overnight.
The page, Islanders against Flybe & Loganair’s excessive prices, was set up by Shetland resident Scott Preston on Saturday and by Monday morning had gathered over 7,400 followers, which, according to Mr Preston, “shows just how strong the feeling is about this issue”.
Last week The Shetland Times reported that return flights from Lisbon to the Azores – a 1,600 mile return trip – can cost less than a return flight from Shetland to Orkney.
The Facebook page has been inundated with posts from Isles residents sharing their own experiences of flying to and from Scottish islands.
Shetland Islands Council Political Leader Gary Robinson highlighted on the page that a return flight from Sumburgh airport in Shetland to Kirkwall airport in Orkney (85 miles) in July would cost over £154. This was £83 more than a return flight from Lisbon to the Azores (850 miles), saying “this could make Shetland to Orkney mile-for-mile Europe’s most expensive flight”.
Mr Preston is hoping that the page will raise the profile of the issue with the two airlines, saying “Those who live on Scottish islands deserve answers from Loganair and I hope that they will respond to the legitimate and serious issues raised by those who have posted to the page. We are not interested in hearing generic comments from a spokesperson.”
Flybe have issued a response to a member of the group through Twitter to indicate that Loganair are solely responsible for setting the prices on routes which they manage.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott has previously clashed with Loganair on the issue of ticket prices, most recently challenging the airline to lower ticket prices after the global price of oil fell.
His Orkney counterpart Liam McArthur said: “It is not surprising to see how quickly this campaign has gathered support. Despite the welcome introduction of the Air Discount Scheme under the previous Scottish Executive, the cost of air travel to and from the islands remains relatively high compared to other routes.
“The current problems with flight delays and cancellations have added to the sense of frustration and anger felt locally. A combination of high fares and poor reliability is a potent mix in any circumstances, but particularly for a lifeline service such as this.
“Tavish Scott and I have sought a meeting with the Transport Minister, Derek Mackay, but it is clear that Loganair need to get to grips with the issues of cost and reliability”.