SPAA president hits out at ‘discrimination’ against Flybmi customers. Benjamin Cohen reports

The president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association  has hit out at “discrimination” against Flybmi customers and reiterated calls for a £1 levy to protect customers in the event of airline failures.

Ken McLeod criticised the Department for Transport (DfT) for the different approaches it took to repatriation following the demise of Monarch in October 2017 and the collapse of regional carrier Flybmi last month.

“The government stepped in to repatriate Monarch passengers at a cost of £60 million,” he said. “Flybmi customers weren’t so lucky; there was just a lot less of them. It isn’t right that discrimination should play a part just because you book
a flight with  a smaller airline.”

The UK government has ordered a review of airline insolvency and is expected to publish a report
in a few weeks’ time.

McLeod reiterated calls for a £1 per passenger levy to be ringfenced to protect against airline failures, adding: “Had the Civil Aviation Authority, the DfT and the government listened to the travel industry more than a decade ago, when we said a £1 per passenger levy on all departures from the UK should apply, then every passenger who ever lost money could have been repatriated or refunded from that fund.”

He also used his speech to urge Holyrood to back calls to scrap APD. Describing it as a “pretty awful tax”, he said it was unfair on Scottish agents, a view held by the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association for a number of years.

With eight members of the Scottish Parliament in the room, he said: “There is nothing good about an air departure tax that is recognised as the highest in the world. Let’s lead the way and cut this tax altogether.”

McLeod also called for a rail link between Glasgow airport and the city centre, praised Gulf carriers for increasing routes from Scotland and warned about the impact of overtourism.

KLM trumpets extra Amsterdam flights from Scotland

Dutch carrier KLM used the SPAA dinner to officially announce plans to increase flight frequencies to Amsterdam from Inverness and Aberdeen.

Chief executive Pieter Elbers said there would be an extra flight per week from both Scottish airports, with the new Aberdeen flight starting in May and the extra Inverness flight operating summer-only.

KLM is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year and has flown to Scotland for 70 years.

Bénédicte Duval, Air France-KLM’s general manager for the UK and Ireland, said: “We have four departure points from Scotland. A quarter of UK passengers fly from Scotland, so the routes are very profitable.”

She said the airline was investing in a new team in Glasgow to serve the north of the UK.

The Dutch government last week bought a 14% stake in Air France-KLM, while the carrier has also been cleared to buy a 31% stake in Virgin Atlantic.