Move could create 16,000 jobs

Cheaper flights boost for Scots as Heathrow lowers airport charges

FlybeHeathrow airport has unveiled plans to cut charges in a move that raises the prospect of more regular and cheaper flights serving Scotland.

The lower charges will be introduced following Virgin’s decision to withdraw its Little Red services and will come into operation whether or not the hub airport wins the battle for an extra runway.

There are hopes that lower charges will encourage smaller airlines such as easyJet, Flybe and Ryanair to increase the frequency of operations.

Derek Mackay, the Scottish transport minister said that introducing more flights between London and Scotland was a key recommendation in the Scottish government’s submission to the Airports Commission which is looking at the issues of extra capacity.

“Regional pricing would help maintain key links between Scotland and London and would also encourage greater competition on these routes, ensuring passengers get the best ticket prices possible,” he said.

“We hope this move will incentivise other airlines to take up the slots being vacated by Virgin when they stop their domestic services in September so that tourists can easily connect to Scotland through this World Hub from long haul services.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said: “Expanding Heathrow could deliver over £14 billion in economic benefit and 16,000 new jobs across Scotland.”

Critics will say that the move is an attempt to secure support from Scottish MPs as Heathrow is locked in a battle for the extra runway with Gatwick. The Airports Commission, led by new RBS chairman Sir Howard Davies, will publish its recommendations to the new Westminster government in the summer.

Reacting to the announcement, Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland said:  “This is potentially hugely significant for international travel to Scotland.  New and more frequent air services to Scotland could have a profoundly positive impact on Scottish tourism.

“Scotland is well served by British Airways operating through Terminal 5 with a comprehensive network of international services.  Following  the announcement of the loss of Virgin’s Little Red services from Edinburgh and Aberdeen to Heathrow from September, we were extremely concerned about the consequences for international travellers connecting through Heathrow into Scottish airports – in particular from airlines and airline alliances like Star and Skyteam that don’t work directly with British Airways.

“We have been working with all partners to try and resolve the situation and in particular to encourage BAA to consider reduced fees for domestic services that British Airways would benefit from and might also encourage an airline to pick up the ‘remedy’ landing slots about to be released by Virgin’s Little Red.

“We know from visitor research that we need to make the journey to Scotland as easy and inexpensive as possible.  This shows that BAA Heathrow understands the importance of this to Scottish tourism and they should be applauded for today’s announcement.”


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