Government announces plan to protect domestic aviation routes in danger of being lost and ensure minimum levels of air services

[UPDATE 11/12/2023: the three letters to government mentioned in Councillor Sims' quote can now be viewed at the links at the bottom of this news item.]

Transport Secretary, Rt Hon Mark Harper MP has announced a series of measures to improve transport connectivity across the UK. These measures include an update to the existing Public Service Obligation (PSO) policy to protect domestic aviation routes in danger of being lost and ensure minimum levels of air services.

According to the policy, “a PSO is an arrangement by which a governing body protects a minimum level of air services on a particular route that is socially and economically vital for the regions it serves. PSOs are used in cases where there are potential obstacles, such as insufficient forecast revenue, that are preventing the route from being considered by airlines as commercially viable in a free market.”

The Council considers this announcement to be timely and significant for the islands, particularly as one of the ‘priority actions’ is to reform domestic aviation policy by allowing PSOs to operate to and from different regions of the UK, rather than just to and from London as is currently the case.

Councillor Steve Sims, Lead Member for Economy, Tourism and Transport, said: “government’s new position on PSOs presents a welcome opportunity for us to underline the importance of the lifeline transport links to the islands and the need for government safeguard our connection to the rest of the UK. We are reviewing the policy and considering whether it provides an opportunity to make the case for a PSO to ensure the air link to the islands is maintained, should the need arise.

We will continue to make the case to government on our vital transport links and the ongoing need for investment and support. We have recently written to three government Ministers seeking reassurance on the Levelling Up funding and the sustainability and affordability of the route. The Council is also using its involvement in the Islands Forum, which is chaired by the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to work with other authorities around the UK to lobby government for solutions to the transport challenges facing island communities.”

The letters to the three government ministers can be viewed at the following links:


Publishing date: 
Monday, 11 December, 2023