Island Air Routes (Service Levels)

Question Time — Scottish Executive — Finance and Sustainable Growth – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 29th January 2009.

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Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party 2:15 pm, 29th January 2009

To ask the Scottish Executive what steps it has taken to monitor the changeover from British Airways to Flybe on island air routes to ensure that service levels have been maintained. (S3O-5716)

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

We have monitored service levels on a regular basis, including charges and other arrangements such as the air discount scheme, since Loganair's franchise with Flybe started on 26 October 2008.

Photo of Alasdair Allan Alasdair Allan Scottish National Party

I am aware that both Loganair and the Government have gone to considerable lengths to maintain the level of service that was provided by the previous operator. Is the minister willing to take up concerns that constituents have expressed to me anecdotally, for example that a return flight from Stornoway to Edinburgh, which cost £85 last year using the discount scheme, might now cost £160?

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am certainly willing to engage on subjects of that character. I will make a few points that might illuminate the subject. First, for aviation, the cost of fuel has been fluctuating dramatically, which I know has been part of the difficulty. Of course, Flybe has a different economic model from that of British Airways and, in essence, operates on the basis of trying to maximise revenue depending on the loading on its aircraft. The example that the member gives is one of which I tak tent. I am happy to engage with him further to ensure that we have the right services at the right price for people throughout Loganair's franchise area.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I welcome the minister's response and echo Alasdair Allan's concerns. I encourage the minister to engage with Flybe on the availability, ahead of time, of connecting flights into Scotland, which he will appreciate are incredibly important, not least in allowing tourism businesses to plan ahead and secure business. The evidence in my constituency is that the lack of availability of such flights is seriously hampering businesses in the current difficult economic circumstances.

Photo of Stewart Stevenson Stewart Stevenson Scottish National Party

I am certainly willing to assist on that subject. Flybe is now the biggest regional airline in these islands and it has significant services throughout Europe. The member might also be referring to interlining to other operators. If there are difficulties with that, I would be happy for Mr McArthur to draw the details to my attention.

The legal position on the route development fund has changed entirely. We are now following a different strategy, but we are continuing to ensure that we develop our air services, particularly for international connections.