Expressions of interest are being sought from air companies keen to operate flights to the islands of Coll, Colonsay and Tiree.
The flights run from Oban Airport, which is owned and operated by Argyll and Bute Council. The council has placed a “prior information notice” on Scotland’s public contracts website, inviting firms to ask questions about the future available contract and to express their interest.
The notice states: “These services are essential to the social and economic wellbeing of the islands as they serve providing resilience in the event of ferry cancellations and helping to counter issues such as depopulation.
“The services operating to and from Oban Airport provide island residents with access to essential services which cannot be provided locally and also support the development of tourism in Argyll. In recognition of the importance of these services, subsidy is made available by Argyll and Bute Council to operate the Public Service Obligation air services to Coll, Colonsay and Tiree. The contract will be for the duration of three years with option to extend by one year.”
The council spent £8.5million upgrading the airport at Connel, before introducing the scheduled flights to the island in June 2008.
The current three-year contract awarded to Hebridean Air Services is due to expire.
The council is currently consulting with islanders to establish their particular needs.
The tender will go out in November and the council will appoint an operator in the new year.