Call for 'stability' after British Airways cuts back Inverness to Heathrow flights
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British Airways announced yesterday that it is reducing the number of flights between Inverness Airport and London Heathrow.
The change will see them use bigger aircraft by merging low occupancy flights and flights to destinations with multiple services each day.
BA said the move comes after a challenging time for the industry and it hopes the change will provide more consistency for customers.
A company 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.”
The popular route currently allows workers from Inverness to travel to the UK capital and back within the same day while also providing a global link for tourists to the Highlands.
There are fears that the local tourist industry may be impacted by these changes, after already taking a hit recently due to the pandemic and Brexit.
Inverness-based economist Tony Mackay said: “This is very disappointing news, particularly for the tourism industry in the Highlands.
“I don’t think local people will be badly affected because there are alternative flights to and from Gatwick and Luton. However, many foreign tourists use Heathrow instead, so this announcement will certainly reduce their numbers choosing to fly to Inverness.
“The local hotels and other tourism businesses are hoping for a big increase in overseas visitors this summer, so this will certainly have a negative impact.”
Stewart Nicol, chief executive of Inverness Chamber of Commerce, said that they lobbied to get the route re-established in the past, so he is positive that the reduction of flights will be temporary.
He said: “The Inverness-Heathrow journey quickly became one of the best performing domestic routes for British Airways in the UK, so there are hopes that this move is just temporary.
“The route brings in-bound tourists spending money to the region, so there is a concern that this will be impacted. However, we are in a positive position as it is a popular route so we hope it will be reintroduced sooner rather than later.”
The reduction of flights is to help combat cancellations for customers, which has been an issue throughout the aviation industry in recent months.
Inverness and Nairn MP Drew Hendry is keen to discuss the matter with BA and Inverness Airport, which is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports.
He said: “What is most important is that flights are reliable and not cancelled altogether, sometimes for weeks at a time, as we have seen recently.
“While everyone understands the impact the pandemic has had on staffing, it must now deliver that stability that they talk about.”
He added: “I will work with British Airways and Inverness Airport, as I have in the past, to see a fitting long-term solution for the needs of people and business throughout our communities.”
Inverness Airport general manager Graeme Bell said: “This appears to be a temporary adjustment to the schedule and is an operational decision by BA.
“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.”
BA vowed to give customers maximum flexibility to either rebook with the firm or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund, if their flights were impacted.
It comes after flights linking Heathrow and Inverness were suspended for around six weeks in January and February.