NEW flights between Scotland’s cities are being planned to help woo long-haul routes to Edinburgh and Glasgow airports and overcome slow road and rail links.
The country’s two busiest airports say the links would bring an influx of connecting passengers, including tourists, and make new routes to the rest of the world more viable.
Aviation officials said flying would also enable travellers to bypass ten years of disruption during dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness.
Discussions have started between airports and airlines, with Eastern Airways among those interested. Its spokesman said: “We would be delighted to start new air services from Aberdeen or Inverness as these are areas we know very well. However, there needs to be more Scottish Government support for the development of intra-Scotland routes.”
However, the plan is opposed by environmental campaigners, who say rail should be improved instead.
Loganair launched flights between Glasgow and Aberdeen 45 years ago and subsequent services linked the cities to Inverness, Dundee and Edinburgh. All were subsequently withdrawn because of lack of demand, with the last, between Inverness and Edinburgh, ending in 2010.
However, Edinburgh Airport, which is anxious to attract more world routes, said the time was right to re-establish them. Its spokesman said: “We would support any viable proposal that linked our major cities in the north to Edinburgh Airport by air. For many travellers. Edinburgh is their gateway into Scotland. These onward connections would support further long-haul connectivity. It would also open up connections for larger parts of the Scottish population.
“As journey times increase on Scotland’s congested road network, intra-Scotland flying would provide substantial benefit for consumers, not least in substantial time savings.”
A spokesman for Glasgow Airport, said: “We would be happy to speak with any airline interested in establishing such a service.”
Highlands and Islands Airports, which runs Inverness Airport, said flights were a major opportunity. Its spokesman said: “We have spoken to a number of interested parties and we are exploring all the options.”
Aberdeen Airport managing director Carol Benzie said: “We welcome further talks on potential inter-airport services within Scotland.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Government’s Transport Scotland agency said: “We are aware some of Scotland’s airports are considering proposals from airlines for intra-Scotland services that would connect to long-haul flights and we have had useful early discussions with some of those involved.
Friends of the Earth Scotland director Dr Richard Dixon said: “We should be trying to fly less, not more, and that’s doubly true when it comes to short flights where there are lower-carbon alternatives.
Colin Howden, director of sustainable transport group Transform Scotland, said: “This clearly demonstrates the grave lack of investment in the rail routes from Aberdeen and Inverness to the Central Belt. It would prove a major embarrassment for the Scottish Government’s ambitions for rail and its commitment to cutting climate emissions should domestic air routes come to fruition.”