The head of the UK’s largest regional airline said his plans to seek help from the government to overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
After the collapse of Flybe, Loganair is one of only two major British airlines that operate mainly domestic routes.
The pandemic has had a serious impact on airlines, its boss Jonathan Hinkles told the BBC.
He said that any airline that claims it could survive without government help “would probably lie”.
Hinkles warned that connectivity from remote Scottish islands and rural communities across the UK “cannot be maintained without air services”, arguing that government support for its airline is “essential”.
Loganair operates routes to the UK’s most remote airports such as Barra in the Outer Hebrides, where 19-seat planes land on the beach.
In normal times, it offers regular services between small regional airports such as Exeter and Newcastle.
But the entire aviation sector has been hit hard by travel restrictions imposed to control the spread of coronavirus.
Loganair, however, is still making a larger share of its flights than other airlines because some trips to the more remote parts of the UK are still considered essential.
The airline is still transporting people, mail and basic necessities, such as pharmaceuticals, to around 15 airports on the island.
Some of the more remote routes are subsidized by the Scottish government.
“We have to fly”
However, the Scottish airline had to land half of its fleet and drastically cut its flight schedule. This jeopardized his entire operation.
“We can’t just shut down,” said Hinkles. “Morally, we have to fly.”
However, without government intervention, Jonathan Hinkles warned that a time would come when the airline simply did not have enough revenue to cover its costs.
Loganair has not yet applied to HM Treasury for emergency support. Chancellor Rishi Sunak instructed the airlines to exhaust all other avenues before filing an official application.
Virgin Atlantic has already indicated that it will also seek a rescue and that airlines like EasyJet should follow suit.
Loganair’s planes are smaller and cheaper than larger airlines, but they face similar challenges.
Two thirds of its planes are rented. Its ATR-72 Franco-Italian buildings cost around £ 120,000 per month. Meanwhile, a Saab 340 costs around £ 20,000 a month.
“In the national interest”
Each airline is now negotiating with tenants, hoping that it will be given more flexibility on payments.
Aside from the immediate problem of continuing the operation, which Hinkles believes is “in the national interest”, the longer-term problem is the speed with which its airlines can recover from the crisis – every time travel restrictions come. revoked.
He says the forecasts within the industry about when airlines will fully recover are bleak.
“When a hairdresser can reopen, there will be a line of people who need to cut their hair,” he says. “This will not be the case with aviation.”
So the head of the UK’s largest regional airline will ask the government to cover losses, over a period of time, on viable routes, such as from Southampton to Glasgow, which is used by people working in the defense sector.
And like any other UK-based airline, it is calling for additional government support measures to overcome the storm.
The Airlines UK industrial group and the Airport Operators Association have asked the government to cover air traffic control costs and payments to the Civil Aviation Authority until the end of this year.
Hinkles says this equates to a “significant element” of an airline’s cost base.
Airlines also want a six-month suspension of the air passenger tax, which brings £ 3 billion annually to the Treasury.
The Loganair chief said that the impact of the pandemic on aviation was “rapid and serious” and that continued support would be needed once the crisis peaked.
In the case of his regional airline, he warned that it would be “easier to support the infrastructure that is there, than to try to build that infrastructure” in the future.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said the aviation sector is “important to the UK economy”.
They added: “We are willing to consider the situation of individual companies, provided that all other governmental schemes have been explored and all trading options have been used up, including raising capital from existing investors.”