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Coronavirus: North airports to close to scheduled flights

Inverness Airport
Inverness Airport

Airports in the Highlands and islands are to close to scheduled flights from Sunday to ensure that lifeline and emergency services can be maintained during the coronavirus pandemic.

And island ferry timetables will reduce by 60% to an essential lifeline service from tomorrow.

Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) said its airports will also be closed to general aviation traffic to ensure that vital services, such as the delivery of medical and other critical supplies, the transport of key workers and emergency flights, can continue.

Hial is working with Transport Scotland and Loganair to agree a skeleton schedule to ensure its airports continue to provide lifeline and essential services, including NHS passenger transfer, Royal Mail and the oil and gas industry.

Hial managing director Inglis Lyon said: “I appreciate this crisis is unknown territory for all of us and at this time we do not know how long these essential measures will remain in place.

“We could not maintain these services for our communities without the extraordinary team spirit and commitment displayed by our staff right across the Hial group and I am indebted to them for their continued flexibility and dedication during a very difficult time for us all.”

Hial has 11 airports around the country – at Campbeltown, Islay, Tiree, Benbecula, Barra, Stornoway, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Wick, Inverness and Dundee.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “Our aviation sector is facing an unprecedented challenge in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, so the Scottish Government is working with industry partners to ensure our lifeline air links continue to operate for the remote communities that depend on them.”

CalMac has announced a reduced timetable, which will run for an initial three-week period, ensuring essential goods and services are delivered to all islands.

CalMac were due to transfer from their winter timetable to their normal summer timetable today but this revised timetable will come into effect instead.

In the past few days passengers on the entire service were down by 85%, cars by 75% and commercial traffic by 45%. CalMac has also seen 8,000 bookings cancelled through their small dedicated contact centre teams compared to just 300 in the same period last year.

This new timetable will see weekly sailings drop from 2419 to 948 against the normal winter timetable – a drop of almost 61%.

Managing director Robbie Drummond said: “We believe that this timetable will be able to maximise use of available crews for the vessels and continue to provide our vital lifeline service for communities.

“It is important that we continue to provide ferries that can take vital goods and services to our island communities and transport people who have essential travel needs.”

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