British Airways has announced it is reducing its flights from Inverness to Heathrow.
The changes – brought on by staffing pressures – mean that people will no longer be able to make a return trip from the Highland capital in one day.
The 7am flight has been axed in the summer timetable.
Airport bosses have said they hope it can be reinstated quickly, which was echoed by Inverness Chamber of Commerce who said the 7am flight was important for those required to do just a “day’s business” in the capital.
BA has revealed plans to merge several of its low occupancy flights and use larger aircrafts.
Airline bosses say they are navigating a “challenging period”.
The aviation industry has lost more than £145 billion and in excess of four million jobs since the start of the pandemic.
‘Providing certainty for passengers’
British Airways hope the move will enable them to focus on increasing their “operational resilience” whilst providing increased flexibility for customers.
A BA spokesman said: “The past few weeks have been challenging for the entire industry and at British Airways we’re completely focused on three priorities: our customers, supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history and increasing our operational resilience.
“We’ve taken action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund.”
Bosses of Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL) say the 7am flight was a popular option for passengers.
Inverness airport general manager Graeme Bell said he understood the challenges faced by airlines, but wants a regular service to be reinstated when feasibly possible.
“This appears to be a temporary adjustment to the schedule and is an operational decision by BA,” he said.
“Although we have been generally pleased that the aviation sector has re-emerged quite strongly from the pandemic there remain challenges for airlines as demand for travel has picked up.
“The Heathrow-Inverness link remains a popular route and we are hopeful BA will reinstate the 7am Heathrow flight as soon as it is feasible to do so.”
Keeping business flowing
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, warned the move will reduce access to the national trade market.
However, he remains hopeful normal service will resume “sooner rather than later.”
He said: “I am optimistic that this is a temporary measure and it’s something that all airlines are looking at given the recovery from the pandemic.
“I understand why this has happened truly and I’m optimistic that it will come back as it is such an important route for both BA as the carrier but also for Inverness and the Highlands – both in terms of the inbound international tourism and business travellers but also for those who live and work in Inverness and the Highlands.
“It’s obviously going to create a lack of access to markets, to that face-to-face business connection that is really important. The 7am flight out is important to allow us to do a day’s business in the capital.”