I met Loganair officials on 15 September 2015 and sought assurances about the reliability of Highlands and Islands air services. Loganair officials accepted that their engineering support was not good enough and they have embarked on a significant programme of improvements. I hope that passengers will start to see the benefits of those changes as soon as possible.
The minister will be aware of cross-party concerns about the robustness of Loganair services within the Highlands and Islands. Constituents have written to me this weekend expressing worries about the reliability of the services, which as the minister knows are vital for business and tourism. Will the minister raise those issues with the airline as a matter of urgency?
Yes. I agree with David Stewart on the issue of reliability. I have raised that issue specifically with the operator in the past. I am happy to do so again and to ask for a progress report on how its plans are going.
All members are well aware that the Government has increased the subsidy and support to 50 per cent in relation to the cost of air fares. I expect enhancements around engineering; Loganair has plans for that and I want to see them realised. I agree that the reliability issues have not been acceptable—that point has been made by islanders, politicians and the Government.
I go by what the pilots and the company have told me. We express concern about reliability but we must not put safety in question. No pilot will leave the ground unless they are convinced that it is safe to do so, as the pilots’ trade union has made perfectly clear. No Loganair pilot would fly if they thought that the aircraft was unsafe.
There is certainly more of an issue to do with reliability. All necessary checks are made on aircraft before they fly, which might have an impact on reliability if an aircraft departs later than it should have done. However, safety must never be compromised. On that, the operator, pilots, politicians and communities all agree.
I am sad to have to assure the minister that the situation is the worst that it has been in my 15 years of getting on planes to and from Shetland. I agree with him on safety, but will he undertake to meet the Civil Aviation Authority, if that is appropriate?
Will the minister also undertake to meet Stewart Adams, the chief executive of Loganair? Although Stewart Adams is making best endeavours to improve things, on Sunday night at Sumburgh the Aberdeen plane went technical and the Glasgow incoming plane went technical. People are putting up with that every day, as David Stewart rightly said, and we need genuine improvements.
I agree with Tavish Scott. That is why I have met and will continue to meet Loganair, to push the company on its engineering commitments. There are matters of commercial sensitivity, but Loganair might be able to share its plans on investment in engineering to address a number of the issues.
The Civil Aviation Authority is the industry regulator. As Tavish Scott is aware, aviation safety is reserved to the United Kingdom Government, but that has not prevented me from raising relevant matters with the operator. I will continue to do that, because the situation has got worse. I will do everything that I can do, from the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland point of view, to ensure that there is a more reliable service.
I repeat that I do not think that safety is compromised. No one should scaremonger to that effect, and that has not happened today. People should be reassured about the service that is provided, but we expect a better service, and that is the case that I will put to the operator.