Creating a bank of 10 flights between Barra and Glasgow which can be used by the community at busy times of the year has been welcomed by the chairman of Castlebay Community Council.
Michael Galbraith said the announcement, made last in late April by Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, was all about giving locals “more control” over the number of flights rather than having them dictated by Loganair.
“If there is a wedding or an event like Barrathon then we could well need the extra flights and we can pass that request on to Loganair,” he added. “First of all it will go through the chairs of Castlebay and Northbay community councils and we will disseminate that request to the other members. It gives us that bit of extra flexibility to meet the extra demand because there are days, especially in the summer, when we could have three or four flights a day.”
Loganair must be given a minimum of four weeks’ notice to arrange the additional flights, which will be rolled over into the following year if they remain unused.
To create the bank of 10 flights, the Scottish Government are to remove the second daily service on a Wednesday during January and February. The Sunday service is being increased from one to two daily flights from the end of May until the beginning of September.
Mr Matheson also announced that two seats per day will be reserved on the first flight of the day from Barra to Glasgow and on the second flight of the day from Glasgow to Barra for use by passengers travelling for medical purposes. Any seats not used within three days of the date of travel are made available for general sale.
The changes are part of the next contract to operate the Scottish Government-supported air routes from Glasgow to Barra, Tiree and Campbeltown. The invitation to tender for the £20 million Public Service Obligation contract, which will run for four years from 25th October 2019, was published on 26th April.
Mr Matheson said: “These flights play a vital role for the remote communities they serve, so we have spoken with passengers to see how we can make improvements and will keep ticket prices low given the lifeline nature of the services.
“The people of Barra and Tiree told us they face capacity issues over the busy summer period, so the new contract will remove a number of little-used flights to create a bank of rotations that can be deployed at the discretion of these communities.
“It will also formalise a scheme for the Barra service which reserves seats for passengers travelling for medical purposes, following a successful trial.
“I look forward to this contract being awarded later this year and the benefits that come with it being realised by passengers.”