Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, raised the collapse of airline Flybe in Scottish Parliament this morning, especially in relation to the service run under franchise by Eastern Airways from Wick airport.
Mr Stewart, who was aware last year that the Eastern Airways service was already under threat, asked Scottish Government Minister Paul Wheelhouse about the overnight collapse of the regional airline Flybe, putting 2,000 jobs at risk across the UK.
Mr Wheelhouse, the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, was answering General Questions.
Mr Stewart said: “Will the Minister raise this issue urgently with the First Minister, to assess the job losses in Scotland and provide specific aviation support in the Highlands and Islands such as endorsing a Public Service Obligation for the Wick to Aberdeen service?”
Mr Wheelhouse agreed these were very important matters and said that the First Minister and Transport Secretary Michael Matheson were actively dealing with the issue.
The Minister added that thoughts were with the staff who found themselves in a “horrendous situation” but also with the customers who were affected overnight.
Mr Wheelhouse said that in the Highlands and Islands Flybe did not operate to the islands but its franchise partner Eastern Airways would continue to operate the service at Wick.
Afterwards Mr Stewart said on-line reports said Eastern Airways was honouring passenger franchise bookings until Sunday as it worked on setting up as an independent operator.
The MSP had contacted Mr Matheson last year following deep concern from Caithness Chamber of Commerce and airline company Eastern Airways about the continued viability of airline services.
The Transport Secretary failed to answer calls for a PSO on the Wick route. A PSO would ring fence Wick air routes and protect them for the future.
“At the time I appealed to Mr Matheson to look at the option of a PSO but his reply side-stepped the issue and instead mentioned the ‘poor’ reliability of Eastern Airways in recent times and that this has impacted on passenger confidence,” said Mr Stewart,
“I said then that what I would hate is see happening is the complete failure of services into Wick because of lack of action by the Scottish Government.
“While it is good that the Wick service is continuing in the short term, it imperative that the Scottish Government revisit this issue as it won’t go away.
“Air services are vital for this remote, rural area and I fully support the campaign to ring-fence them.”
- A PSO, under EU transport law, is a permitted state aid which maintains scheduled air services on routes vital for the economic development of the region they serve.