Underfire airline Loganair has increased its profits by £1.4 million as figures reveal the number of passengers using its fleet is increasing.
The operator has pledged to invest £15 million into a programme aimed at improving the quality of their service. This vow comes as annual figures published by the company show an increase in turnover, passenger numbers and profit between March 2014 and March 2015.
Turnover increased from £87.3 million to £93.6 million raising profits to £7.2 million from £5.8 million the previous year. Passenger numbers rose by 13 per cent to over 650,000.
News of financial success will come as a welcome relief for the company which has been much maligned locally over its reliability.
Loganair has been plagued by a number of safety concerns, which culminated with pilots’ union Balpa writing to Loganair expressing safety concerns.
Late last year two separate Loganair flights had to land with just one functioning engine. The first incident occurred in November when a plane with 13 people on board was forced to land in Aberdeen on a flight from Glasgow to Sumburgh.
Last month a plane with 49 people on board had to land on one engine after an alarm indicated a possible fire in the port engine, which was then shut down as a precaution.
Among the improvements Loganair intends to make there will be £4 million spent on the purchase of two 50-seater Saab 2000 aircraft.
They also vowed to spend £3.5 million to begin a three-year programme of major passenger upgrades for the Saab 340 – the aircraft which most commonly flies the Sumburgh routes – significantly improving journey comfort and convenience.
It has also been revealed that last year just 77 per cent of all Loganair flights departed within 15 minutes of schedule, though chief executive Stewart Adams insisted that this was “still higher than the UK industry average”.
He went on to say that Loganair “have set a target of 85 per cent for 2016 as we deliver the benefits of our investments”.
In addition, Loganair claimed to have invested heavily in its engineering operation.
Mr Adams said: “Engineering recruitment and training has been a major focus in the current year and we will also shortly be launching an apprenticeship programme, aimed at identifying and training our own young engineers at a time of a global skills shortage in the aviation industry.”
It was claimed that this investment would help to improve the reliability of Loganair’s services. A vow which will be welcomed locally on a service which has been regularly delayed due to technical faults.
Another area of investment will be a £6 million spend on a new spares hub at Glasgow Airport which will carry the most regularly-used parts – allowing for faster and more efficient servicing and repairs.
Loganair chairman David Harrison said: “Twenty-fifteen was a challenging year but we have a very robust and comprehensive plan to further improve our fleet and enhance the comfort of our passengers.
“It is our number one priority and from April 2015 to April 2016 we have committed more spend than we have ever done to achieve those ambitions.
“As well as the acquisition of another Saab 2000 and the new expanded spares hub, having two dedicated spare aircraft based at Glasgow and Aberdeen enables us to improve back-up capability across the network.
“These investments are all designed to significantly improve operational performance and we are confident they will each have a positive effect on service levels.”
Tavish Scott said that the investments made by Loganair were “good but long overdue”.
He added: “Profits up, turnover up, passenger numbers up yet reliability is down.
“The everyday experience of many Shetlanders travelling south has been disrupted by engineering problems and technical issues.
“I want Loganair to invest any money they make in sorting reliability. Islanders must have confidence that the service will fly and fly on time. That has not been the case for too many months.
“The sooner this gets underway the better for everyone who use Shetland’s lifeline air services.”
• Last summer many locals backed a Facebook campaign which called for Loganair and Flybe to lower their pricing on services provided to Scottish islands.
Shetland Islands Council Political Leader Gary Robinson supported the calls made by campaign leader Scott Preston.
Mr Robinson highlighted that a return flight from Sumburgh airport to Kirkwall airport (85 miles) in July 2015 would cost over £154. This was £83 more than a return flight from Lisbon to the Azores (850 miles).
At the time it was claimed by Mr Robinson that “this could make Shetland to Orkney mile-for-mile Europe’s most expensive flight”.
Shetland MSP Tavish Scott, and Shetland and Orkney MP Alistair Carmichael, have also criticised the airline for the quality of service provided, citing flight delays, ticket prices and safety as matters for concern.