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UK transport secretary fast-tracks a meeting on Aberdeen to Gatwick air route

Aberdeen International Airport .
Aberdeen International Airport .

The UK transport secretary has fast-tracked a meeting to hear concerns over the loss of air links between Aberdeen and London Gatwick.

Grant Shapps is understood to have expedited discussions with Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid after coverage in The P&J earlier this week.

The pair were scheduled to meet at the end of this month to discuss the concerns but will now meet midweek.

Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for links between the north-east and the UK’s second busiest airport to be reinstated.

North-east MSP backs calls to reinstate Aberdeen to Gatwick flights axed a year ago

It has been a year since easyJet cut flights between the Granite City and Gatwick, with concerns raised it has invonvenienced both holidaymakers and business.

Now, Banff and Buchan David Duguid will raise the issue with the transport secretary in the hope of finding a solution.

Mr Duguid said: “I am not satisfied with easyJet, who have simply told me in the past that passengers can still fly from Inverness.

“That’s not all that convenient for my constituents living in Fraserburgh.

“The fact that nearly 5,000 people have signed the petition shows the strength of feeling locally about retaining this route.

“I want to discuss regional connectivity with the secretary of state and emphasise the importance of routes like this one to the local economy in the north-east.

“The protection of air links between Aberdeen and London is vital to making sure we make the most of that investment.”

Campaigners have raised concern easyJet halted flights as it was cheaper to fly from the Highland airport.

Passengers flying from Inverness are exempt from paying air passenger duty (APD) – meaning airlines are able to sell cheaper flights without profits being hit.

The airline continued its links to Gatwick from Inverness – which is Scottish Government owned – after stopping its Aberdeen service.

Campaigner Val Fry, one of those behind the petition supported by thousands, said: “My main hope from these talks would be for a fairer system of ADT, as Inverness is at a massive advantage just now.

“I’m extremely happy Mr Shapps has taken this meeting as it feels like someone outside of Edinburgh is now listening.”

The Scottish Government was handed power to change APD in 2016 but has since agreed the UK Government should maintain responsibility for the levy until “beyond April 2020”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “A solution has to be found to the Highlands and Islands exemption before the tax can be taken on.”

An easyJet spokesman said: “easyJet already operates a minimum of four flights a week (increasing to daily flights from March) between Aberdeen and London Luton – a route we’ve increased capacity on by 17% for this year.

“We reviewed the London Gatwick route and decided to cease operating it because a reduction in demand made it unviable.

“We concentrate our efforts on maintaining and developing routes which prove most popular with passengers.”

Managing director of Aberdeen International Airport, Steve Szalay, said: “We welcome Mr Duguid meeting with the Transport Secretary and giving the people of the north-east a chance to have their say.

“easyJet are an important partner at the airport, providing routes to both Luton and Geneva.

“We are working closely with easyJet and other airlines in an attempt to win back this much loved route.

“Space at Gatwick is sought after and discussions are ongoing.”

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