Scotland business

Flybe 'suspends' Scottish flight plans

Flybe Image copyright PA
Image caption Flybe said regional airlines needed better support and concessions

The airline Flybe is putting pressure on Heathrow Airport to lower charges for UK feeder flights.

The company is suspending plans to take up slots at the airport in October which would have enabled it to operate flights to and from Scotland.

The move comes as Heathrow appealed to people in Scotland to support its plans for a third runway.

The airport said it had been working "constructively" with Flybe on the proposal.

Flybe chief executive Saad Hammad said the future of Flybe's Heathrow plans was now dependent on the relevant stakeholders, who were "led primarily by Heathrow".

"A regional airline with smaller aircraft cannot connect the UK regions viably to Heathrow without appropriate concessions and support," he said.

"We have been encouraged by the constructive spirit with which Heathrow in particular was making towards reaching a mutually agreeable outcome.

"We welcome the £10 per passenger discount they have, for example, proposed for domestic airlines as of January 2017. Sadly, however, this is not enough. Flybe is keen to give Heathrow and other stakeholders time for a rethink."

Image copyright PA

Heathrow Airport said the £10 discount would make domestic flights more affordable for passengers which supported the "commercial viability" of the flights.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: "Whilst we are legally bound to create a level playing field for airlines bidding for remedy slots at Heathrow, Flybe would benefit from our £10 discount on introduced to support all domestic services.

"We are committed to being a hub airport for the whole of Britain which is why we continue to campaign for a reduction in APD [Airport Passenger Duty]."

FlyBe is also calling for the RAF to open access to its Northolt airfield.

The airline said the military airport, north-west of London, was mainly used for executive jets and should be available to ordinary travellers rather than "a privileged elite".

It added that Northolt could be linked to Heathrow through a relatively short road connection.

Analysis by Douglas Fraser, BBC Scotland business and economy editor

Flybe, which specialises in short journeys in smaller aircraft in and around the UK, has been going through a challenging business turnaround.

Having secured landing slots at Heathrow, and with a cut of £10 per passenger in the charge for airlines on feeder flights, FlyBe is pushing for further cuts at a sensitive time for Heathrow.

London's giant hub airport is vulnerable to criticism that it has too much power over airlines and is not acting in the interests of the UK economy. Its management has been working hard to win support for its expansion plan.

FlyBe management argues that it is unfair that feeder flights on smaller aircraft, transporting passengers in and out of the intercontinental hub, should be charged at similar rates to the biggest aircraft.

The case for opening up Northolt is seen as at least a short-term solution to a lack of airport capacity around London. Both Gatwick and Heathrow have been battling to win government permission for new runways. But Heathrow, in particular, faces tough opposition from Conservative MPs whose constituents would be affected by extra traffic.

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