Scottish airline Loganair will fly solo to and from north and north-east airports after the collapse of an eight-year-old franchise deal with Flybe.
Paisley-based Loganair moved to reassure passengers last night, saying there were no plans to axe routes, but the leader of Western Isles Council was seeking guarantees.
Jonathan Hinkles, Loganair managing director, said franchise route fares would have risen if the airline had agreed to the new terms.
Routes were not at risk he insisted, adding the carrier was instead looking to improve its services across the north and north-east.
He said: “We hold tremendous responsibility to operate services on lifeline routes and provide connectivity for Scotland – operating more flights in Scotland than every other airline put together.
“Every single one of the routes we currently operate forms part of our future plans.
“The Highlands and islands are our heartland; we are 100% committed to serving communities there.”
Peter Simpson, chief executive of Airline Investments, Loganair’s parent, added: “We believe the time is right for Scotland’s airline to now spread its wings once again.”
It is understood Loganair refused to sign up to new terms which would have significantly increased the amount it pays to Flybe, while also imposing punctuality standards higher than Flybe’s own.
Flybe said the franchise, which covers lifeline flights in the Highlands and islands as well as services from Aberdeen and Dundee, would end in August next year after the two airlines failed to agree on operational standards and commercial arrangements.
The aircraft currently used on the Flybe-branded franchise routes are either owned or leased by Loganair, which also crews them.
Loganair said it would have a new booking system up and running by March – well before flights take off under its own name again after nearly 25 years of the airline operating under franchises.
The planes will be painted in red and black tartan, which the carrier said would introduce a “new, definitively Scottish identity to the skies”.
Loganair, which has battled to improve its operational performance this year after widespread criticism about poor punctuality, operated flights under partnerships with British Airways (BA) from 1993-2007, and then Flybe from October 2008.
Chairman David Harrison recently admitted standards had fallen below “what our customers should rightly expect”.
He was speaking as the airline announced a near halving of profits to £3.6million during a “difficult” year to March 31, 2016.
Loganair said yesterday its codeshare arrangement with BA would also continue, allowing customers to make a single booking for a journey from points throughout the Highlands and islands to London and beyond.
Exeter-based Flybe operates its own services from Aberdeen to Belfast, Birmingham, London City and Manchester, and from Inverness to Belfast City and Birmingham.
Simon Laffin, executive chairman, Flybe, said: “Scotland is very important to Flybe, and we want to ensure that we serve our customers there to the highest standards, whilst delivering a return to our shareholders.
“We shall announce our plans on continuing to serve Scotland in due course. In the meantime, our customers can travel and book tickets exactly as before, while any new arrangements will be put in place from September 2017 onwards.”