Scottish airline offers world's shortest flight at just 90 seconds

Brief journey from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands flown by new eight-seat Loganair carrier

Christopher Jasper
Thursday 10 August 2017 09:57 BST
The Spirit of Caithness, Saab 340 aircraft, with the new livery
The Spirit of Caithness, Saab 340 aircraft, with the new livery (The BIG Partnership/Bloomberg)

Scottish carrier Loganair, operator of the world’s shortest scheduled flight and another that lands on a remote Hebridean beach, is repainting its fleet into tartan colours and seeking new allies as it prepares to go solo after almost a quarter of century flying in the livery of other airlines.

The Glasgow-based company, known for its routes to the far-flung archipelagos of Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, has begun transforming its planes with a red, black and grey tail design and the logo “Scotland’s Airline” as it prepares for independence at the start of next month. The plaid pattern is listed as entry 11,744 on the official Scottish Register of Tartans.

Loganair is getting its own brand after flying for British Airways from 1994 until 2008 and then for Flybe Group, with which a franchise deal ends on 31 August. While Loganair gets the bulk of its £100 million in annual revenue from the tie-up, Managing Director Jonathan Hinkles says it can survive and prosper by leveraging its Scottish credentials more widely.

“We have a strong level of recognition in our core market in the highlands and islands,” Hinkles said in a telephone interview. “That will carry us through. The task is to establish that affinity where we are not so well known.”

The chief said passengers have no loyalty “whatsoever” to Exeter, England-based Flybe, with which Loganair had an acrimonious split over punctuality issues and demands that it pay more to extend the franchise deal.

Among the 30-strong Loganair fleet are two eight-seat Britten-Norman Islanders used for services within Orkney, including the 1 1/2-minute, 1.7-mile flight between Westray and Papa Westray that’s the shortest scheduled route in the world, with a record time of 57 seconds in the air in a favourable wind.

Three de Havilland Canada Twin Otter planes are deployed on trips from Glasgow to the Western Isles, including a flight to Barra that lands on a 2-mile-long strip of sand at different times each day according to the tide. The world’s only scheduled beach landing, the service has become a popular tourist draw.

Loganair plans to swell bookings by extending a code-share partnership with British Airways to at least four routes from Inverness after the London Heathrow-based giant resumed flying there after 19 years in 2016, adding to 16 flights to which BA places its code from Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Hinkles, who returned to Loganair in 2016 after four years as a vice-president at Virgin Atlantic Airways, is targeting a similar cooperation with British Airways at an unspecified English city. His company will also code-share with sister carrier BMI Regional, which has a base in Aberdeen, and aims to secure deals with six-to-eight other airlines, including long-haul operators, this year.

Hinkles said the weakening of the pound versus the dollar following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has inflated fuel and maintenance costs, and that Brexit also poses “potential issues” for staff from other European Union countries, though the Scottish Government “is providing reassurance on that.”

The fleet will remain focused on Saab AB 340 and 2000 turboprops with 34 and 50 seats respectively, Hinkles said, though it could look to add Avions de Transport Regional ATR 42s to replace three Dornier 328s put up for sale. Sourcing the discontinued Saabs is becoming too onerous, he said.

Flybe Chief Executive Officer Christine Ourmieres-Widener has said that Britain’s biggest domestic airline is pursuing 10-20 more code-share deals of its own, buoyed by the introduction of flights to Heathrow from Edinburgh and Aberdeen. The carrier, which sports a distinctive purple livery, will now rely on Eastern Airways for services to Shetland, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.


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