Loch Lomond Seaplanes starts transport-cum-tourism service in Scotland

Scottish air taxi Loch Lomond Seaplanes has launched a seaplane service between Glasgow and Oban. The nine-seater Cessna 208 seaplane picks up passengers from next to Glasgow Science Centre across the Firth of Clyde. The flight to Loch Lomond over the rugged hills of Argyll into the gentle harbour at Kerrera for the ferry to Oban is complete in less than 25 minutes, but takes in some of Scotland's most stunning scenery.

Alternately described as "breathtaking" and "better than Australia, Indonesia, Greece and the Maldives", Scotland's scenery doesn't get monotonous, as the views change with the weather. This is the Europe's first seaplane service in Europe to take off from a city centre. David West, the firm's owner, has borrowed the concept from Vancouver, Seattle and Sydney, where seaplanes carry a combination of business travellers and holidaymakers.

Oban could just be the start of a network of flights. Mull, Skye and Tobermory are the next targets. The abundance of lochs in Scotland makes the seaplane a natural alternative transportation network. All a seaplane needs is a pontoon for mooring. The company is licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority to land anywhere in Scotland's 560 lochs, 700 islands and 6,200 miles of coastline. A versatile seaplane can open up areas that have no airports and are time-consuming to reach by any other transport.

Transport Minister Stuart Stevenson is enthusiastic. His predecessor wanted a new multi-million pound airport at Oban, but Stevenson seemed more impressed by the low-tech option. Return flights to Oban cost a flat fare of just under £150 (Rs12,200). It is a swift alternative to a two-and-half-hour, 91-mile road trip. Besides, it's the sightseeing treat of a lifetime.

Captain West's Loch Lomond Seaplanes has been running charters from Loch Lomond for three years and he is convinced there is a demand. He says: "The seaplane puts back the joy, the love, the fun and especially the romance of travel. We have a lot of people proposing on our flights, and we've even had one marriage on the plane."