LOGANAIR has made its first solo flight in 25 years as it starts a new era as an independent airline.

At the end of franchise agreements with British Airways and latterly Flybe, the only airline based in Scotland decided to go it alone in servicing around 40 lifeline routes between the Scottish mainland and islands, including the Western isles, Orkney and Shetland.

Loganair’s first flight from Islay to Glasgow Airport was welcomed with a water cannon salute and a pipe band yesterday.

The firm’s managing director Jonathan Hinkles said it marked the culmination of a nine-month race to create customer service and ticketing services for Loganair.

That had meant the Scottish operator establishing a codeshare deal with BA to allow passengers travelling from regional airports to move on to international destinations with just the one ticket.

The Scottish airline now faces competition from former partner Flybe and Eastern Airways on routes to Stornoway, Shetland and Orkney.

But Hinkles said he is “up for the battle”, adding: “The only people who think there is room for two airlines [on the island routes]is our competitor, no one else does.

“Be it councils, economists, transport experts or anyone you speak to, they say there isn’t room for two.

“But we’re focused on delivering the very best service, at the best price and with the best reliability that we can to make sure that we win the battle in which we’re engaged.”

He went on: “We’re extremely grateful to all of the communities in our key destinations for the tremendous support they are affording us.

“This is translating into very strong advance bookings.

“We’re thanking them today with a celebratory 24-hour 10-per-cent-off flash sale.

“And in the long term we’re introducing a set of customer enhancements that we simply didn’t have the freedom to introduce when we were a franchise partner.”

The first Loganair flight into Glasgow was carried out by a Saab aircraft decorated with the striking Loganair red, black and white tartan.

Passengers were piped into the terminal by Benbecula pipe band Sgoil Lionacleit and each was given a pewter gift by Hinkles to mark the occasion.

After a quick turnaround, the aircraft set off for Stornoway with Scottish musicians Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain onboard.

Cunningham said: “Loganair has always been a big part of my life so it’s nice to see its colours back.

“We wish them all the best.”

Meanwhile Flybe says it has struck a five-year deal which will see Humberside-based Eastern run its scheduled network under the Flybe brand. The new alliance would “significantly improve” connectivity for Scotland, the airline claimed.

Its chief executive Christine Ourmieres-Widener said: “We are a regional airline and we are also a local airline connecting communities.

“We decided to do that [compete with Loganair] because we think that there is room for two operators.

“We did it with a fantastic new partner, Eastern Airways, and we think that we have the right aircraft and the right infrastructure to be successful.”

*Loganair’s on-line check-in now opens four days before every flight, offering customers the opportunity to check in far earlier than ever before.