Holyrood in new air passenger duty call

Flybe sold all its take-off and landing slots at Gatwick to rival easyJet. Picture: Robert Perry

Flybe sold all its take-off and landing slots at Gatwick to rival easyJet. Picture: Robert Perry

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THE Scottish Government has issued a fresh demand for air passenger duty to be devolved to Scotland after bosses at Flybe said the “penalistic and ludicrous” charge was a key reason for it selling off all its slots at a busy London airport.

The airline sold all its take-off and landing slots at Gatwick to rival easyJet in a £20 million deal.

But fears have been raised about the future of the “vital” service between Inverness and Gatwick in the wake of that.

Flybe currently operates 19 flights a week between the Highland city and Gatwick, and while the service should continue till March, easyJet has said it will not “automatically keep flying” all of the routes.

Danny Alexander, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has described the Inverness to Gatwick service as being “absolutely vital for the Highland economy”.

Now Transport Minister Keith Brown is demanding Alexander provide an “urgent update” on air passenger duty (APD) as he made a renewed call for the responsibility over the charge to be handed to Scotland.

On Thursday Jim French, the chairman and chief executive of Flybe, said the decision to sell the slots at Gatwick had been made with “real regret and some anger” as he hit out at the UK Government’s “penalistic and ludicrous policy of charging air passenger duty on both legs of a domestic flight”.

Brown said the sale of the slots to easyJet meant there could lead to cuts in services between London and the Highlands.

“There can be no guarantees at this stage that overall capacity and service provision will not be diminished,” the Transport Minister said.

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