Extra air services for island communities

Oban Airport from above

Island communities across Argyll and Bute are set to benefit from additional flights to the mainland from September 2023.

Following a competitive tender process Argyll and Bute Council has secured a new contract with Hebridean Airways (Airtask) that includes an extra flight for Coll on a Friday during the summer months in 2024. It also includes additional Saturday flights on Colonsay throughout the summer.

The new timetable from Airtask includes flexibility on flights for eligible school pupils travelling to the mainland.

Details of the service will be available on the Hebridean Air Services website in the coming months https://www.hebrideanair.co.uk/

Providing air services

Air services are a non-statutory service. Although there is no legal requirement to provide air services, Argyll and Bute Council recognise the vital importance they make to island communities.  They play a range of critical roles including delivering medical equipment, transporting patients to hospital and transferring school pupils.

The council operates Oban, Coll and Colonsay airports at an annual cost of £700,000. It also subsidises air services by over £2 million over the length of a four-year contract.

Air services transport pupils from the islands of Coll and Colonsay to Oban High School allowing them valuable time with their families during the weekend. The service also offers a vital lifeline in the event of ferry cancellations during the winter months.

Awarding the new contract follows an extensive consultation that asked communities and businesses for their views on a range of issues including current use of the service, preferred flight times and potential for the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to deliver some services. The feedback helped inform bidding operators on what services would be most beneficial to meet island needs.

Save your air services

To help maintain air services, the council is appealing to island residents to apply for a number of relief airport positions on Colonsay and Coll. The paid positions include Fire Fighter and Air Ground Operator. More details are available on the Oban Airport website http://obanandtheislesairports.com/isle-of-coll-and-colonsay-relief-airport-roles/

Councillor Andrew Kain, Policy Lead, Roads and Transport, said:

“Despite year on year cuts to the council budget, we recognise that air services provide an important lifeline for island communities. Thank you to everyone who took part in the consultation. Based on this feedback, we have managed to secure an improved service with additional flights within our limited fixed budget. Airtask has listened to feedback from communities and designed a timetable that will continue to provide essential services to our island residents.

To help continue this service, we need people on our islands to take up a number of relief positions. This is a legal requirement for all airports and without relief workers; the service may be at risk. I would encourage anyone who is able to apply for the job to help the whole community. ”

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