On behalf of both the Community Council and the independent Tiree Transport Forum our Convenor recently sent the following letter:
Tiree Community Council and Tiree Transport Forum have asked me to write to you.
Both bodies are concerned about the consequences of Loganair’s pivot away from
their SAAB 340 fleet to the ATR 42 as the airline sought to develop scale and a wider
footprint before Covid-19 struck. The ATR is unable to land at Tiree airport.
As you know, pre-pandemic, the Scottish Government’s two Twin Otter DHC6-400s
occasionally struggled to maintain the busy Glasgow, Barra, Tiree and Campeltown
rotations. The availability of the SAABs allowed Loganair to task these planes on an
emergency basis if one of the Twin Otters were taken out of the schedule. This has
not been infrequent on the Tiree run.
Obviously, passenger numbers have been heavily impacted by Covid and you must
have more pressing matters in your in-tray at the moment.
However, adding or replacing plane capacity is an expensive and complex task with a
long lead time. We wondered if the programme to phase out the SAABs has slipped
because of the pandemic, and how Transport Scotland intends to replace the
capacity that the SAAB fleet has given Loganair in the past.
Dr John Holliday, Convenor, Tiree Community Council on behalf of the community
council and the Tiree Transport Forum
We have now received the following reply:
Thank you for your e-mail of 18 November 2020 about Loganair’s fleet replacement plans. I hope you are keeping well in these difficult times.
My understanding is that, while Loganair’s plan to phase out their Saab 340s and replace them with ATRs has been delayed due to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still their intention to complete their fleet replacement programme. As you note, the Saab 340 is sometimes used on the Tiree-Glasgow service and the ATR cannot be used due to its weight. Two of the assessment criteria as part of the tender process for the PSO contract are relevant here – ‘maintenance and back-up arrangements’ and ‘proposals for non-availability of aircraft’. The ‘maintenance and back-up arrangements’ criteria recognises that the aircraft normally used on the routes will be out of service at various times in order for routine maintenance to be undertaken. This includes each aircraft’s annual heavy maintenance check which takes several weeks. Loganair confirmed as part of their bid that they own a Twin Otter aircraft, in addition to the two they lease from HIAL, that will be used in the delivery of services from Glasgow to Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra.
In relation to ‘proposals for non-availability of aircraft’, Loganair’s bid set out a clear, multi-layered approach offering a high degree of resilience which provided us with assurance that they could continue to provide the services even if the normal aircraft used on them were unavailable. This included use of their own Twin Otter aircraft as well calling on other aircraft in their fleet should that be necessary. At the extreme, the leasing in of further aircraft would be considered.
There is no requirement within our contract for Loganair to use specific aircraft types for the provision of services. This is deliberate so that it gives an airline the maximum flexibility to ensure that services are provided. Loganair is, however, contractually required to provide the services as per the specification. Should they fail to do so then we would take action under the contract to address the situation.
You will be aware that Covid-19 has led to a significant drop in passenger numbers across the air network and including the Glasgow-Tiree service. As a result of this, the number of weekly rotations has been reduced to take account of this lower demand. It is neither economically nor environmentally desirable for an airline to be flying empty planes. We expect, however, that this reduction in frequency will be a short term measure. We expect demand to pick up again next year as the Covid-19 situation is resolved and travel restrictions are lifted. In the longer term, we are committed to the provision of the current specification during this contract period and I look forward to continuing to engage with you and your colleagues on the Community Council and Transport Forum, both in terms of ensuring that services are currently operating as they should in meeting the needs of the community as well as considering further refinements to the specification for the next contract period.
Should you have any further queries please don’t hesitate to get in touch.