Lifeline, not a luxury

Published Tuesday, 14th May 2019 in Research news

Lifeline not a luxury
Sumburgh Airport at Shetland Islands, Scotland By Marcin (Adobe Stock)

Air travel is a ‘lifeline, not a luxury’ for people living and working in the Highlands and Islands, according to a new report.

The Air Transport Survey Report, published by Scotland’s Rural College in partnership with Scottish Rural Action (SRA), was commissioned by the Scottish Government to determine the importance of air travel for people living and working in the Highlands and Islands.

The report analysed the lived experience of 1,460 people and identified a common theme in the responses – that flights are a lifeline not a luxury.

The speed and comparative reliability of air travel, compared to travel by sea – particularly during bad weather, was one reason air travel was considered by many to be a critically important method of transport.

The respondents felt that flights are ‘embedded’ within island life, enabling essential medical and family transport, and contributing to the valuable business and economic activity that sustains many remote rural communities.

However, they also reported that the high cost of air travel was prohibitive, particularly when booked last-minute and compared with European and long-haul flights.

Professor Sarah Skerratt, Director of Policy Engagement at SRUC, said: “We are extremely grateful to the hundreds of people from across Scotland’s Highlands and Islands who took the time to describe their experiences of air transport – what it means to them in their daily lives; how it enables them to remain connected; maintain their wellbeing, both physical and mental; and sustain their social, economic and cultural ways of life.”

Fiona Thomson, of Scottish Rural Action, said: “People living and working in rural and island parts of Scotland rely on air travel, but access to services that many people on mainland Scotland take for granted can be complex and prohibitively expensive.

“Our research clearly illustrates the many ways in which air travel is a lifeline, not a luxury.”

As part of the research, respondents were asked to provide a single message about air transport for the Scottish Government. They highlighted a number of themes including its importance in the areas of health, business, cultural and social inclusion, and for economic development.

They also said they would be encouraged to fly more often if airlines or airports could simplify and reduce pricing, increase routes and reliability, and adjust schedules to allow for longer day trips.

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