There was a rather special arrival at Sumburgh Airport this morning when the “Sharon Deyell” jet aircraft touched down on the runway.
Flybe has dedicated the aircraft to the Bixter fundraiser and her name now holds pride of place on the aeroplane.
Mrs Deyell has helped to raise more than £5,000 a year over the last decade for good causes and is well-known in the isles for her swap shop sales.
She has been selected by the airline as the first Flybe Community Hero.
Mrs Deyell said it was a shock to receive the award, having been nominated by friend Elizabeth Nicholson.
Family and friends joined her for a special breakfast and presentation at Sumburgh Hotel, before seeing the plane up close.
And arriving at the airport for the big day, it suddenly became very real.
“We were sitting at the lights and there were planes coming in and out,” Mrs Deyell said.
“It suddenly dawned on me and I thought ‘gee whizz is my name going to be on there?’.”
Flybe’s interim chief commercial officer Ronnie Matheson presented Mrs Deyell with the award.
He said she was a “remarkably energetic champion” and hailed her fundraising work.
“Flybe proudly supports the local communities we serve and so we are delighted to recognise Sharon for being an outstanding and inspirational local community hero who continually goes above and beyond by giving so much of her time to others.”
Meanwhile, Flybe held its second public meeting last night at Shetland Museum, since teaming up with Eastern Airways to go head-to-head with Loganair in September.
Representatives from Flybe and Eastern Airways gave an update on the service, including connections, flight arrivals and the recent shift by Flybe allowing a free bag of up to 23kg on its flights in Scotland.
Flybe chiefs also said the airline is keen to work with NHS Shetland to provide patient travel fares, including companion tickets, which it believes can provide potential cost savings for the health board.
The airline has “a reciprocal disruption agreement” with Loganair – meaning if a flight is cancelled for either airline and another aircraft is not available, passengers will be able to fly with the other company.
Mr Matheson said prices have fallen since competition between airlines.
In September and October, tickets were between 20 and 40 per cent cheaper on average, even adjusted for seasonal differences.
However, frustrations were raised about flight delays and the use of a single Embraer jet aircraft for connections with Scottish cities.
One member of the audience said the delays meant they would opt to use Loganair for business trips instead.
“We generally won’t use you,” he said.
“You have so many late flights that we don’t want to be sitting around in Sumburgh waiting for an hour or two.”
He said with operating one aircraft, it that was late it would mean later flights for rest of the day.
“You seem to have so many late flights we can’t take a chance.”
However, Eastern and Flybe defended their service.
Mathew Herzberg, head of commercial at Eastern Airways said: “To say ‘if it [the plane] runs late, it runs late all day’ is not correct.”
Mr Herzberg said 68.6 per cent of flights were running within 15 minutes of times scheduled. The figure included wind, fog, low cloud and holes in Aberdeen runway.
A replacement aircraft was being used to help get schedules back on track, he said and there were incorrect perceptions that the Embraer 170 had greater limitations to the Saab 2000.
Among the table of comparisons was that both had a crosswind limit of 35 knots.
750 flights had been operated since September, Mr Herzberg said and the Embraer jet could use both runways at Sumburgh in daylight.
Loganair also had delayed flights, added Mr Herzberg “it’s very much the same as it is for us as it is for them”.
Jimmy Smith also noted the delays and called for a greater break-down of the figures, showing how many flights had been delayed for longer periods than 15 minutes.
Mr Smith said Flybe had “a magnificent” internal network and for flying, for example to Exeter, it was a good service.
Flybe said the competition was helping to drive down flight prices, benefiting customers in the isles.
“I hope you stay because you’re keeping Loganair honest and I hope Loganair stay because they are keeping you buggers honest,” Mr Smith said.
More in next week’s Shetland Times.