Loganair will continue as operator of the Orkney Inter-Isles Air Services for a further four years following the award of a new Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract by Orkney Islands Council.
Image courtesy Loganair
The airline, which pioneered the services in conjunction with the then Orkney Islands Shipping Company in 1967, has continually maintained the lifeline air links connecting the islands of North Ronaldsay, Papa Westray, Westray, Sanday, Stronsay and Eday with Kirkwall ever since. It bases two Britten-Norman Islander aircraft at Kirkwall to fly the routes, carrying around 20,000 customers every year.
Although the world’s shortest scheduled flight – two minutes between Westray and Papa Westray – is one of the islands’ tourist attractions in its own right, the services fulfil a year-round critical role in the delivery of education, healthcare, mail and other essential services to Orkney’s North Isles. Inter-island flights became bookable on-line for the first time in 2019.
The new contract, won following a competitive tender process, will run for four years from 1 April 2021, securing the employment of 10 pilots, engineers and ground staff dedicated to the services at Loganair’s Kirkwall base. Loganair has recruited and trained engineers locally to take over from retiring long-serving members of its team and is committed to continuing this policy of local investment in Orkney wherever it possibly can.
During the new contract, Loganair fully expects to convert the aircraft to use low-carbon propulsion to replace the same type of conventional piston engine which has powered the services for over 50 years. Loganair is a key participant in several projects to bring low or zero-carbon technology to commercial air transport, and will be supporting flight trials of two separate programmes - hydrogen-powered and electrically-powered aircraft - at its base in the Orkney Islands in the first half of 2021.
It is the only UK regional airline invited to participate in the UK Government’s Jet Zero Council initiatives to de-carbonise future air travel.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “We’re delighted and privileged to have been chosen to deliver Orkney’s essential Inter-Island air services for a further four years. It’s a vital service for the prosperity of the North Isles, and our ability to retain this contract is entirely due to the experience and hard work of our dedicated team in Kirkwall.
“The four-year contract award provides us with certainty on which to plan for the future – whether that be the transition to new low or zero-carbon technology or in the recruitment and training of staff in Orkney to work on the Inter-Isles operation. The North Isles services are a key part of Loganair’s DNA, and despite our expansion as an airline, we remain today as committed as ever to serving the communities of Orkney.”
Orkney Councillor Graham Sinclair said: “Communities in our North Isles have been served by Loganair for more than half a century and now, following a competitive tendering process, the airline has been awarded the four-year contract once again.
“In these ever-challenging times with uncertainty around every corner, I am sure the continuity of service will be welcomed by residents.
“I also welcome Loganair’s future plans which include conversion to use of low-carbon propulsion which can only but assist with our attempts to reduce our carbon footprint.”