Budget airline easyJet has scrapped a route between Aberdeen and Manchester that was introduced less than a week ago, due to Scottish Government restrictions on travel to the English city.
A boss at Aberdeen Airport called the news “hugely disappointing”, adding that the industry “urgently needs help”.
EasyJet announced the new route last Thursday, alongside one from the Dyce airport to Bristol and another between Inverness and Newquay.
At the time, the announcement was hailed as a “massive step forward” and “very encouraging indeed” by local politicians.
This morning’s decision also led to the cancellation of the airline’s route between Manchester and Edinburgh.
‘We urgently need a plan’
An easyJet spokesman said: “Following the Scottish Government’s announcement that non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester is currently not permitted, unfortunately we are no longer able to operate our planned new routes connecting Edinburgh and Aberdeen with Manchester.
“Customers due to travel on these flights will be notified of the cancellation and informed of their options, which includes transferring their trip to an alternative destination on easyJet’s network or to a later date free of charge, and receiving either a voucher or refund for the entire value of their whole booking.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience.”
Flybe operated a route between the two cities until the company went bust in March last year, and Loganair currently runs flights between Manchester and both Aberdeen and Inverness.
A spokeswoman for Loganair said: “We have no plans to cancel our operating of routes between Aberdeen and Inverness to Manchester.
“Loganair is committed to serving both routes and will continue to provide flights for essential travel, and also for leisure purposes when the current restrictions are lifted.”
Responding to today’s news, Operations Director at Aberdeen International Airport Mark Beveridge said: “This is hugely disappointing news from easyJet.
“Following the Scottish Government’s announcement that non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester is currently not permitted, the airline are no longer able to operate its planned new route from Aberdeen to Manchester.
“We can’t continue like this and urgently need help and a plan that sets out how we can work towards the safe restart of travel.”
North-east MSP and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport Liam Kerr said: “This is the outcome of fast and loose decision making by the SNP, at a time the entire aviation industry has asked for more support from the government.
“Instead of certainty from the SNP, they got a travel ban announced with no opportunity for scrutiny at Holyrood.
“I will be in touch with easyJet to ensure this measure is temporary and to get some assurances for those who need to travel to and from the Manchester area.”
Issue raised at Westminster
During Scottish Questions at Westminster today, Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Andrew Bowie called the travel restrictions “baffling and inconsistent”, and called on the Scotland Office to help align Covid travel rules across the UK.
In response, minister David Duguid said: “On the specific issue around EasyJet and the flight to Manchester, they have made a commercial decision today, announced today, in response to the Scottish Government’s decision to regulate, to prohibit travel to Manchester.
“This has been widely criticised as disproportionate and clearly Scottish Government ministers will be keeping travel regulations under constant review.
“And there are clearly calls for this particular regulation to be reviewed and in closer consultation with all interested parties.
“The Scotland Office would be happy to facilitate that, if helpful.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Placing restrictions on non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester and Salford has only been taken after extremely careful consideration and analysis of data to help prevent the spread of variants of concern.
“The rules do not prevent commercial flights between Scotland and the north west of England although we understand that they will depress demand.”