ALL this week, the Evening Times is featuring the six contenders for the title of Glasgow’s Favourite Business 2019.

The award, sponsored by this paper, is part of the Glasgow Business Awards, organised by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and with Royal Bank of Scotland as the main sponsor. The awards will be presented at a black-tie dinner at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel on October 3.

We’ll present the last of our six nominees on Saturday and let you know how you can cast your vote.

JONATHAN Hinkles laughs and pauses briefly when asked the question: what is it like to actually run an airline?

“You never know what’s coming next, that’s for sure,” says the managing director of Glasgow-based Loganair, ‘Scotland’s airline’. “There’s always something, somewhere happening, whether it’s thunderstorms down in the London area, as there was last week.

“If you look at what our crews and our people were dealing with one day last week” - Thursday, July 25th - “we had a year’s worth of medical emergencies in one day. We had two customers with epileptic fits, we had a pregnant lady whose waters broke on one of our aircraft.

“But that’s part and parcel of what we do every day, whether it’s weather disruption, or challenges around aviation fuel prices, or what’s happening with Brexit, or with foreign-currency issues.”

Hinkles has seen many such issues in his time with airlines. He first joined Loganair in 2008, leaving after four years to work for Virgin Atlantic but returning three years ago.

A glittering moment in the life of Loganair came at a ceremony in Edinburgh some 10 months ago.

The airline’s franchise agreement with FlyBe had come to an end in 2017, and it set about going on its own and rebranding itself.


The SSE Hydro

Its subsequent efforts over the next 12 months were praised at the European Regional Airline Association awards, in Edinburgh, when it was named Airline of the Year.

The judges praised Loganair as an ‘exceptional regional airline which has rebuilt its commercial infrastructure after the end of its franchise’ while implementing ‘a complete rebrand’ undertaken by a ‘young and inspirational CEO.’

Loganair has continued to flourish, and recently reported a pre-tax profit of £1.01 million for the 12 months ended 31 March, in what was its first full year of operation under its own Scottish brand.

The airline, which says it was now the UK’s fifth-biggest by number of flights, took on pilots, cabin crew and engineers from the collapsed regional airline Flybmi and has launched, or is launching, new routes in Essex and Carlisle as well as Norway, Denmark, Germany and Brussels.

“The rebranding was something we obviously put a lot of time into, to try to get it right, and to try to get it right for our customers,” said Hinkles. “But overall, the results we are seeing are really positive.

“These services which we have launched out of Glasgow over the last short while have been well-received, whether it’s to London Southend or Dusseldorf. These are the links we’re launching and adding.

“All of this is something we’ve tried to underpin from a customer and service perspective. We have our own call-centre - rather than outsourcing that, we’ve put it in our head office in Glasgow. We’ve also managed to create more jobs in Glasgow, thanks to an expansion.”

Loganair’s customers are, he adds, “a real mix of everything and everyone. The services we provide to the Highlands and islands are quite heavily tourist-based at this time of year but there are also people travelling for NHS hospital treatment.

“Our Glasgow-Stornoway flight first thing in the morning takes all the newspapers out, as well as lots of pharmaceutical supplies. There are a lot of people going out to Stornoway and on the flight back we’re bringing islanders in - some are off to catch flights from the Glasgow hub.”

Loganair was founded in 1962 by William Logan and it was initially based at Renfrew airport with just a single Piper Aztec aircraft. Two years later it won the contract to deliver the Stornoway newspapers, bringing back supplies of Harris Tweed on its return to Glasgow.


New flight route from Glasgow launched by Loganair

In 1967 the airline not only launched the Orkney Inter Isles service linking mainland Kirkwall with the smaller islands but also won the award of a supplementary air ambulance contract. The story since then has been one of constant growth.

Since the rebranding Loganair has also launched member partnerships with such global airlines as British Airways and Emirates from the Glasgow Airport hub.

Loganair’s Scottish destinations include Barra, Aberdeen, Benbecula, Edinburgh, Dundee, Fair Isle, Orkney, Inverness, Tiree and Wick.

Its other destinations range from Dublin, Bristol, Guernsey and London to Bergen to the Norwegian cities of Bergen and Stavanger and the Danish sea-port of Esbjerg.

One issue that is causing Loganair concern, however, is the rise in compensation claims for flights hit by bad weather - a factor, he warned, that could force the airline to cancel routes.

He has complained that some ‘no-win no-fee lawyers’ are aggressively targeting airlines after seeking customers whose flights had been disrupted.

“It is a concern, and it will have an impact on ticket prices,” he says, “if it continues to go in the unfavourable way that it looks as though it might. We just have to keep working hard to make sure our business is solid and sustainable for everybody - our customers or the 850 staff who depend upon us for a living.”