Island Flights: Flying around Scotland and Ireland
Last week, we looked at multi-sector hops across Arctic Norway and beach landings on Barra in our review of unusual European scheduled flights. Now we follow up with comments on some of the really small aircraft used on regular island flights around Scotland and Ireland.
Several of the smaller islands in the Shetland archipelago have long relied on lifeline air services that were for four decades operated by Scottish airline Loganair. Nowadays Directflight operates these services with regular links to seven Shetland airports using 8-seater BN2-Islander aircraft. A quick look at Directflight’s 2011 fares and schedules shows fully flexible (and refundable) one-way fares from just £11 (about $18).
BN2-Islanders are also a regular sight at Oban airport on the Scottish mainland where they are used on all the services operated by the airport’s sole scheduled airline: Hebridean Air Services. The company provides flights to four islands in the Inner Hebrides: Islay, Tiree, Coll and Colonsay.
Hebridean Air Services also offer links between selected islands. Pick of the routes for scenery is the afternoon flight from Colonsay to Islay which affords superb views of the Paps of Jura. This flight operates on Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer and tickets cost from £20 one way. The twice-weekly year-round air service augments the summer-only ferry service which operates just once each week.
Loganair may have lost the Shetland inter-island contract, but they are still a mainstay of Orkney life where they operate Islanders on short hops serving seven Orkney airports. Some inter-island itineraries may require three or four en route stops and fares start at £15 return.
Loganair claims a world record for the shortest scheduled flight with its link between Westray and the neighboring island of Papa Westray where the sector takes just two minutes.
Across in western Ireland, ever-versatile Islander aircraft also link the mainland with the three beautiful Aran Islands. Services are operated by Aer Arann Islands and the adult one-way fare for the short hop from Connemara Regional Airport (Aerfort Réigiúnach Chonamara) on the mainland to any of the three island airports is €23.
Plane or boat?
We don’t suggest that the plane to the Arans, or any of the Scottish island communities mentioned in this article, is necessarily better than the corresponding ferry connections. Most times, we would opt for boat over plane.
But some of the communities we mention here are genuinely remote and ill-served by ferries. Between now and the end of September the direct Orkney ferry from Papa Westray to North Ronaldsay runs on just four occasions. The weekly non-stop flight (on a Thursday) is thus a key element of the islands’ transport infrastructure.