A Highlands and Islands MSP has welcomed the UK government’s rescue deal for regional airline Flybe.
Conservative politician Jamie Halcro Johnston said that the airline provides “important links to and from the Highlands and Islands, and beyond”.
The UK government announced a rescue plan today for Flybe, which had got into trouble with a significant amount of tax debt – ministers plan to work with the airline to help it repay an estimated £100m worth of air passenger duty payments.
However the decision to save the airline has also drawn ire from rival operators and environmental activists, and prompted a complaint to the EU that the rescue breaches state aid rules.
Mr Halcro Johnston said: “Their service is an important part of my region’s transport infrastructure and onward connectivity, and I very much welcome the UK Government’s positive intervention to save the airline.
“For local people and businesses, the UK Government’s prompt action will provide them with reassurances that they will continue to be able to fly to the destinations that Flybe service, and to make those onwards connections as they do now.
“At a time when the Scottish Government is, frankly, making such a mess of our ferry network, there are real concerns over plans to central air traffic control and improvements to local roads are progressing at a snail’s pace, if at all, it’s good to know that at least one of our governments is capable of taking decisive action to protect vital parts of our infrastructure.”
The airline operated flights out of Sumburgh as recently as 2017, but pulled out of the route after only six months, with disappointing passenger numbers, unsustainable fare levels and heavy losses for Flybe and Loganair connected to the decision.
After falling out spectacularly over Flybe’s decision to go into direct competition, the two airlines eventually made up and announced a new agreement in October last year, which means over 100 connections are bookable via Loganair’s website.
The agreement means fliers avoid paying multiple Air Passenger Duty charges for separate flights, and are re-booked to their destination free of charge if weather conditions or other delays lead to missed connections.
There was uncertainty around how Flybe going out of business would have affected people who booked connecting flights under this latest arrangement.