Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Edinburgh flights axe may spell end for far north airport

Wick John O'Groats Airport
Wick John O'Groats Airport

Wick John o’ Groats Airport will be left with only one route at the end of this month after Scottish airline Loganair axed flights to Edinburgh.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross Liberal Democrat MP Jamie Stone called the decision “potentially ruinous” for the far north and local SNP MSP Gail Ross said it was a “devastating” blow for the area.

Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said it was the result of a “significant market failure which will have serious short, medium and long-term economic impacts”.

Loganair announced it was ending the long-standing service because of a “marked deterioration” in the number of passengers using the flights for onward connections to other parts of the UK and overseas, driven by an increase in non-stop services from Inverness.

Passenger numbers on the route fell from 11,357 in 2016 to 7,632 last year, a fall of 33%, the carrier added.

It said the route’s viability was, therefore, already “under serious pressure” long before the coronavirus outbreak caused a further drop in demand, with bookings currently down by 17% on a year ago. Loganair’s final departure from Wick on March 27 – leaving Eastern Airways as the only operator – affects two staff, who will be offered jobs at other locations or redundancy.

The airline said it would consider operating from Wick in the future, but only if routes are protected by the Scottish Government under a public service obligation.

Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles said: “Loganair has been serving Wick since 1976 but there has been a steady decline in passenger numbers, mirroring the simultaneous growth of non-stop flights from Inverness, and the further drop in demand as a result of coronavirus has dealt the final blow.”

Transport Scotland was already considering a business case for that from the Caithness chamber and a spokesman for the department yesterday said it would respond soon.

This is potentially ruinous for the far north.

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross MP Jamie Stone has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeking her intervention to protect “lifeline” air services to and from Wick.

In his letter, he said: “Loganair have announced the suspension of services between Wick and Edinburgh. This is potentially ruinous for the far north.”

Mr Stone said he first made the case for a public service obligation for the airport in July 2018 but had been told it was impossible because of EU state aid rules.

He added: “Now that the commercial service has ceased and given that we are set to leave the EU in December (after Brexit transition) this must be looked at again as a matter of urgency.”

Mr Stone said yesterday: “As Dounreay runs down we are trying to put in place high-quality replacement employment, and part of that is about enhancing transport connections.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “It is disappointing that the Edinburgh-Wick route has failed. We are considering carefully a business case from Caithness Chambers of Commerce and will respond to that soon.”

Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross SNP MSP Gail Ross tweeted: “This is devastating news for the far north. Massive implications for tourism and the economy.”

ANALYSIS: Argument for state aid to maintain aviation links now strengthened

The loss of one of its only two routes will inevitably fuel fears about the future of Wick John o’ Groats Airport.

It still has flights to Aberdeen, with Eastern Airways continuing to operate these independently following the demise of its former franchise partner Flybe.

Caithness Chamber of Commerce has been lobbying for state aid for the ailing airport in the form of a public service obligation (PSO) – a means of maintaining services for sparsely populated areas through government subsidies.

Chamber chief executive Trudy Morris said Loganair’s withdrawal from the terminal at Wick strengthened the case for a PSO for the airport.

She added: “Regular, reliable regional aviation links are critical to our region’s continued economic success.

“This is a significant market failure which will have serious short, medium and long-term economic impacts. We need and expect urgent action from the Scottish Government to address these.

“While there are particular external pressures on the regional aviation market at the current time, this is a situation which could and should have already been addressed.

“We provided the Scottish Government with a contingency planning report in June of last year.

“Had that report prompted an active response, we would be in a much stronger position to deal with the issues we are now facing.

“Instead, a major operator from Wick John o’ Groats Airport has pulled out of a route providing vital services to communities across Caithness, and we do not have a plan or commitment from government to mitigate the impact.

“We have been proactive and planned for this type of scenario.

“We need government to step up and match our work.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in