With flying comes a list of inevitable anxieties from whether or not to check on your hand luggage to the harrowing thought of being sandwiched in a tin can for hours on end. Oh, the things we do for wanderlust! When it comes to flying between the Scottish Orkney isles of Westray and Papa Westray, there’s simply no time for such contemplations.
At around 90 seconds — or a record-breaking 57 seconds with a favourable wind — the shortest scheduled passenger flight anywhere in the world exists in bonnie Scotland. Operated by Scots airline Loganair, this famous route has formed an air bridge between the two Orkney islands since 1967, with the year 2017 marking its 50th anniversary.
The 1.7-mile flight between Westray and Papa Westray spans roughly the same distance as Edinburgh Airport’s runway and extends far beyond the novelty aspect. Rather, it’s a life-line for locals who have relied on it, almost like a bus service, for decades.
Island passengers include school children, teachers, midwives, doctors, patients and even the local banker and police officer. Of course, adventurers, aviation enthusiasts and visitors also use the route to explore some of Scotland’s most magical parts.
First-timers are even given a certificate congratulating them on flying the ‘World’s Shortest Scheduled Air Service’. The millionth passenger stepped aboard in 2016.
A day return ticket costs £36 (around $50) while the sightseer fare costs £45. Since so few people inhabit the surrounding isles, air travel is the most favourable mode of transport. There is a ferry service but it’s no match for Loganair in terms of speed.
Awarded by Orkney Islands Council, internal flights to the six outer isles — Eday, North Ronaldsay, Papa Westray, Sanday, Stronsay and Westray — are operated under a Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract. Approximately 10kg of aviation fuel is used for the route, which evens out to around £15. To put this into perspective, a Boeing 747 can burn anywhere up to 1.5 tonnes of fuel while taxiing before take-off. In the grand scheme of things, this makes flying a surprisingly green way to travel across the Orkney Islands.
Two eight-seater Britten-Norman Islander aircrafts are used by Loganair for the Orkney Inter-Island service. These hardy wee planes are operated by one pilot and built to withstand even the most tumultuous Scottish weather.
As well as the adored Orkney Inter-Island service, Loganair links Shetland and the Western Isles to key Scottish destinations. The airline also runs flights to the Isle of Barra’s wildly romantic cockleshell-strewn beach runway. A flexible timetable stays in place to accommodate the ever-changing tide, which just so happens to swallow the runway twice daily.
Living up to its title of ‘Scotland’s own airline’, many Loganair cabins are dressed to the nines with Harris Tweed headrests, the flight attendants boast charming tartan uniforms and Tunnock’s biscuits appear in abundance. Due to the brief nature of the Westray-Papa Westray route, however, there is no on-board drink or snack service!
Start planning the next Scotland adventure and secure that seat on the world’s shortest flight with Loganair.
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