TRANSPORT giant Stagecoach Group – owners of the Scottish Citylink and Megabus brands – has been accused of profiting from the chaos at Scotland’s airports as they emerge from the Covid pandemic.

Passengers travelling on one service between Edinburgh Airport and Glasgow in the early hours of last Friday morning were charged full single fares despite having valid return tickets.

Scottish Citylink has an effective monopoly on the through-the-night service. By its own admission, the company is aware that customers on its airport services are facing, often severe, delays as a consequence of a crisis in recruitment of airport workers, such as ground staff and baggage handlers, following mass lay-offs at the beginning of the pandemic.

The National is aware of at least five disgruntled passengers on return tickets who were hit with additional single fares on one service alone.

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Claire and her two friends, travelling on the delayed 1.53am service between Edinburgh Airport and Glasgow last Friday, were charged full single fares of £14, despite holding open return tickets, priced £23.40, that are valid until August 8, with the driver refusing to accept open returns. The National is aware of a fourth passenger, also travelling on an open return ticket, who was refused carriage on the same service unless she paid a full single fare.

Claire and her friends bought their open return tickets on the bus – rather than purchasing timed returns online – because they suspected they would face delays. “We didn’t book online, because they are timed tickets”, Claire explained. “We knew the airports were a bit wonky just now.”

A fifth passenger, travelling an online ticket timed 1.23am, who was delayed on his flight into Edinburgh, was also charged a full single fare. Although he was boarding the next available service (the 1.53am bus, which was delayed by 48 minutes), the driver insisted he purchase a full-priced single ticket, telling him, “you’ve missed your bus.”

A spokesperson for Scottish Citylink acknowledged that the passengers travelling on open return tickets should not have been charged additional single fares. “Open tickets are purchased from the driver on board the coach and will allow travel on any scheduled service, with a return within 28 days”, they said.

However, the spokesperson defended the practice of only selling timed tickets for airport services online, despite the price being identical. “As is the case with other forms of transport, including trains and airlines, advanced purchase tickets are only valid on the specific journey selected by the customer when booking.”

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However, they added: “In certain circumstances, discretion will be applied by the driver if there is a reason why the customer wasn’t able to use the pre-booked service ... Given the ongoing issues at the moment which we know are being experienced at airports and may cause delay to passengers, we will ensure that our drivers are aware that they may be able to use discretion in these circumstances.”

Scottish Citylink has undertaken to refund the £14 single fares charged to all five of the passengers in the cases known to The National.