We need to keep fighting for regional slots at Heathrow

It feels it’s not that long ago we had a Heathrow campaign, but it may be time for another one.

Inverness Chamber of Commerce was at the forefront of efforts to regain the Inverness-Heathrow service and we have enjoyed seeing it expand since with an increased number of flights.

Chamber members and local businesses know how crucial these improved air links from London are for the growth of the Highland economy and that they must be protected. The planned expansion of Heathrow provides further opportunity for routes to be enhanced for both business and leisure fliers.

That message needs to be made consistently and I am hoping that Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye will return to Inverness soon to meet Chamber members to hear their views.

John was recently outspoken about Flybe’s decision to move its Newquay-London services from Heathrow to Gatwick from March (while at the same time starting flights from Heathrow to Düsseldorf and, presumably using some of the freed-up slots).

I agree with him that it is wrong that regions which rely on an air link to Heathrow should have that removed, therefore cutting them off from global connections. Businesses need certainty about these vital links to allow investment and better economic opportunities.

To succeed in the global marketplace, Inverness and Highland businesses need guaranteed connectivity to London and from there to wider markets. Likewise, overseas visitors cannot easily get to Inverness and the Scottish Highlands by rail, and both our exporting and tourism members rely upon critical air connectivity.

That’s why Inverness Chamber supports calls for the Government to ring fence flights from certain UK regions into Heathrow, including Inverness, so we have the same opportunities for global trade as London and the South East.

This would involve designating as ‘protected’ UK domestic routes flown into Heathrow from regions where there is no land transport link of less than four hours. It would also ensure the route is offered to any other airlines to operate, before the route is changed or removed.

Only by taking strong action like this can we guarantee these crucial flights will remain.