A NEW “business-friendly” air link between the Highlands and London has been announced by Flybe.
The regional airline said its five-year deal with London City Airport would have a schedule from Inverness getting passengers into the heart of the UK by 9.15am.
From Monday 27th October 2014, Flybe will offer a twice daily service between the two cities.
Flybe expects the new route will appeal particularly to those travelling for business to and from the City of London and Canary Wharf.
It is aiming to appeal to travellers whose plans are time-critical and who will appreciate the reduced transfer times compared to flying to and from either Gatwick in West Sussex, or Luton in Bedfordshire.
London City airport is located in the heart of the UK capital with connections every ten minutes by Docklands Light Railway, meaning that passengers can be in Canary Wharf in 12 minutes – and, via the London Underground, in Westminster in 24 minutes.
‘Brave move’ say analysts
Aviation experts said Flybe’s decision to compete against British Airways on the Edinburgh-London City route was bold since CityJet had axed its flights in October blaming “very tough” competition, as The Scotsman revealed last year.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, said: “I think it’s a very brave move, but suspect it’s more to do with making the most of the void by CityJet, which Air France is spinning off.
“Cityjet was never a focal point for Air France, hence why it’s being ditched, but Flybe could well capture a slice of the market here.”
The Inverness-London City will provide the Highland capital with a third London link, after EasyJet’s Gatwick and Luton flights.
However, Flybe’s new route does not yet offer Europe-bound holidaymakers the opportunity to check luggage through to their destination because the airline’s other London City routes are all in the UK and Ireland.
This had been available with Flybe’s former route to Gatwick, but is not offered by EasyJet.
Saad Hammad, Flybe’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We’re delighted to announce this brand new service between Inverness and London City Airport. Today’s news is a significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe.
“The decision to re-enter the London market at its most convenient airport follows a rigorous profitability analysis utilising our strict ‘Route Assessment Model’.
“We have taken into consideration how appealing London City is for business travellers looking to be in central London in time for morning meetings, as well as getting home in time to put the kids to bed.”
Danny Alexander, Highland MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury said: “It is fantastic news for the Highlands that Flybe are to open a new route to London City. These new flights will offer greater diversity and flexibility for customers.
“It is a strong show of confidence from Flybe that cements the Highlands place as a beacon for business and adds to Inverness Airport’s growing reputation as a investment and transport hub.
“I look forward to using the service in the coming months as the Highlands continue to go from strength to strength.”
Inglis Lyon, Managing Director of Inverness Airport operator HIAL, added: “HIAL has been in discussion with flybe to expand its operations from Inverness and we are delighted to have secured this new service, which complements our existing network of routes to London.
“London City Airport is well placed for the financial heart of London, making it an ideal hub for business passengers, and with connections to 45 destinations across Europe and the US, the airport should also prove popular with leisure passengers.
“The new service represents a welcome boost for business and tourism in the Highlands at a time of continued passenger growth for Inverness Airport.”
Flybe will now operate six routes from Inverness: Amsterdam, Belfast City, Birmingham, Jersey and Manchester.
The airline announced that further new routes will be announced in the coming weeks.
One way fares to and from Inverness to London City including taxes and charges start from £49.99.
Flybe recently launched a 60:60 guarantee that promises its customers if a flight arrives more than 60 minutes’ late at its destination due to a delay within Flybe’s control, they will qualify for a £60 voucher towards their next flight as long as they book within 60 days.
In May last year Flybe sold its take-off and landing slots at London Gatwick airport to Easyjet for £20m – sparking fears for air links to the Highlands.