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Suspension of Highland-Heathrow route ‘extremely disappointing’ as falling demand cited by British Airways

Graeme Bell, Managing Director of Inverness Airport. Photo: James Mackenzie

British Airways’ decision to suspend its Inverness-Heathrow service until February has been described as hugely disappointing by business leaders.

However, confidence remains high that the route between the Highland capital and the world’s third busiest airport will regain its former popularity.

BA took the decision to suspend flights in the face of greatly reduced demand as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 continues to be a threat and the public is encouraged to work from home rather than travel.

BA flights from Inverness to Heathrow have been grounded.  Photo: Callum Mackay
BA flights from Inverness to Heathrow have been grounded. Photo: Callum Mackay

Bookings have been closed until February 10 and BA has contacted all customers who have been disrupted to offer them refund vouchers, valid until the end of September 2023, or transfer flights to another service, such as Aberdeen- Heathrow.

A BA spokesperson said: “Like other airlines, due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, we are operating a reduced and dynamic schedule.

“We apologize to customers whose travel plans are disrupted. When a customer’s flight is cancelled, we always contact them to offer options, including a full refund. Customers who are unable to travel or choose to non-travellers can also continue to change their flights or request a voucher for future use under our Book with Confidence policy, which has been available since the start of the pandemic. Full details of our policy can be found at www.”

Inverness Airport chief executive Graeme Bell said: “While we are disappointed that the Inverness-Heathrow service has been temporarily suspended, we appreciate that the aviation industry as a whole is once again faced at an extremely difficult time.

“This route provides a direct link between the capital of the Highlands and one of the main aviation hubs in the world. We hope the recent easing of travel restrictions will allow people to plan their trip with more confidence and we look forward to welcoming a full schedule of flights when the service is reintroduced.

Hial general manager Inglis Lyon.
Hial general manager Inglis Lyon.

Inglis Lyon, chief executive of Inverness Airport’s parent company, Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd (HIAL), described maintaining the link between Inverness and Heathrow as its biggest current challenge.

“It’s a core business that the Highlands need to retain, especially as we’ve been successful in attracting it,” he said.

“These things are hanging by a thread as the industry is under pressure in terms of aircraft availability, profitability and eye-popping losses over the past two years.”

Stewart Nicol, chief executive of the Inverness Chamber of Commerce, also called the news hugely disappointing, especially given the business community’s uphill battle to restore the road.

“People are choosing to work from home rather than going to the office or traveling to meet people, so it’s completely understandable why BA did that,” he said.

“Not having the service will affect business and traffic to the city and the Highlands, but I am confident that in future we will be in a much better place.

“It was known to be BA’s best performing domestic route, so I really hope that when international trade and tourism recovers, we will see the route not only come back but also perform very well as we’re growing our international business and connecting globally because it’s such an important and profitable route, so longer term, I’m extremely optimistic.”

Economist Tony Mackay shared Mr Nicol’s disappointment, adding: ‘I don’t think a short-term suspension will have a significant negative impact, but there is concern it could lead to a longer-term reduction .

“The Inverness-Heathrow service is important for business people, wealthy tourists and politicians. A longer-term cut would certainly make the Highlands less attractive to overseas investors.

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