The boss of Highlands and Islands Airports has written to MPs, urging them to ensure the “essential” route between Inverness and London Heathrow is maintained.
Direct flights between the two airports were temporarily suspended by British Airways last month, as the coronavirus pandemic caused a significant drop in demand.
In correspondence with the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster, HIAL Managing Director Inglis Lyon raised the importance of the route to the economy of the north of Scotland.
Writing to committee chairman Pete Wishart MP, Mr Lyon said: “It is imperative that Inverness Airport has access to London Heathrow with a minimum frequency of two services per day that enables passengers to undertake a viable day return in each direction.
“The London Heathrow route is essential for the economy of the Highlands and Islands as it provides a direct link to one of the world’s leading aviation hubs.
“Moreover, it has a high degree of connecting traffic, with just under half who use the service travelling onwards to the rest of the world, and similar numbers in reverse.”
Mr Lyon pointed to a 2018 impact assessment, which found the route brought in a total spend of £89 million in the Inverness area by inbound visitors.
‘Ensure communities remain connected’
Regular services are still running from the Highland city to London Luton and London Gatwick, operated by EasyJet, while KLM runs flights to and from Amsterdam Schiphol twice a week.
On its website, British Airways is selling tickets between Inverness Airport, one of several Scottish airports operated by HIAL, and Heathrow from the end of February, though that date may change dependent on trading.
Mr Lyon added: “Both Mr Wishart, and fellow MP and committee member Douglas Ross, use Inverness airport for travel and when next passing through we would be very happy to provide them with an update on the different initiatives currently underway and our strategy to address the challenges HIAL currently face, as well as discuss opportunities to ensure our remote communities remain connected.”
The Scottish Affairs Committee has been holding an inquiry into airports across the country, analysing their environmental impact and performance for local communities as well as how they have been affected by the pandemic.
Mr Wishart said: “Our committee’s inquiry on Airports in Scotland has now finished its evidence gathering phase, and we are now in the process of pulling together our findings and recommendations into a report to the UK Government.
“We heard compelling evidence on the importance of airline routes that many communities rely on, including the route between Inverness and Heathrow.
“Airline routes themselves are a commercial matter for the companies involved, but as a committee we may encourage UK Government to support such routes.”