Papa Westray. Picture: Kristel Jeuring, flckr.

London - A contract to operate the shortest scheduled flight in the world has been awarded after a bidding war involving three rivals.

A Scottish airline won the contract for the flight between Westray and Papa Westray, which usually lasts less than two minutes but, depending on wind direction, has been as short as 47 seconds.

The route, which is just over a mile (1.6km) , was among those in Orkney offered as a bundle of the islands’ air services in a contract worth nearly £4 million (R56m).

The contract has been awarded to current operator Scottish airline Loganair. Services will include flights between Kirkwall and the islands of Papa Westray, North Ronaldsay, Westray, Sanday, Stronsay and Eday.

The contract will start in April and run for three years with the option of a 12-month extension.

The Orkney Islands Council (OIC), which issued the tender, estimates the cost will be around £3.3m, or £3.9million if the council decides to extend the contract period.

The service would include both passengers and freight transport.

Loganair, which has operated the Orkney inter-island service since 1967, began offering the £39 return flight in 2011 following feedback from customers keen to include the island-hopping trip in their travel plans.

The move proved so popular with visitors that Loganair offered an extended season from June to early September, with an additional morning service every Saturday.

The runways at both Westray and Papa Westray have been extended – as part of a £300 000 upgrade by Orkney Islands Council.

Little more than four miles long and one mile wide, Papa Westray has been hailed by travel writer Bill Bryson as his favourite place in Britain. The island is home to just over 70 people, and 60 archaeological sites.

Finds include the Westray Wife – also known as the Orkney Venus – a small Neolithic figurine, carved from sandstone, that was discovered during an Historic Scotland dig at the Links of Noltland, on Westray in the summer of 2009.

It was the first Neolithic carving of a human form to have been found in Scotland, and to date it is the earliest depiction of a face found in the UK.

A second figurine of about the same size and shape as the Westray Wife, but made from clay, and missing its head, was discovered by archaeologists at the same Links of Noltland site during the summer of 2010. – Daily Mail