AIR links between the Highlands and London have been boosted for next summer with easyJet announcing increased flights.
The airline, the largest in Scotland, is making 24,000 extra seats available for travellers going to and from Inverness between 27 March and 26 June next year.
The new schedules will coincide with the return of the Scottish Open, which attracts tens of thousands of golf fans, returning to the Highlands.
easyJet currently operates daily flights to London Luton and twice daily to London Gatwick.
From March 2016, and throughout the summer, the airlinet will fly twice a day to London Luton every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday – and will also operate a third daily flight to London Gatwick every Monday, Friday and Sunday.
Business leaders in the north welcomed the move.
Fraser Grieve, the Highlands regional director of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI), said: “This is a great boost for air connectivity between Inverness and London which recognises the passenger demand for this vital air route.
“Access to and through London is hugely important for Highland businesses and these new flights will strengthen that connection and allow more visitors to travel to Inverness and the wider region.”
Ali Gayward, easyJet’s head of Scotland, said: “We are pleased to further strengthen our network with the addition of these seats and are committed to Inverness.
“In addition to increased London connections for business passengers these extra seats mean more connections to key cities across Europe.
“Additionally, easyJet’s unique Scotland Flex offer means that passengers can fly back early from any London Airport to any Scottish airport.
“easyJet is now Scotland’s largest airline with an unrivalled network of over 50 routes served from Inverness, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen.”
Graeme Bell, Inverness Airport General Manager, said the increase in capacity was good news for business and leisure travellers, and for local tourism providers.
He added: “This is a significant expansion by EasyJet into London. It will mean even more choice for business and leisure passengers flying into London or using Luton or Gatwick as connecting hubs.
“The increase in capacity is also good news for Highland tourism providers. With a busy calendar of events next summer, including the Scottish Open, the extra flights will bring many more visitors to the region.
“We are delighted at this vote of confidence by easyJet. Inverness Airport is enjoying a period of sustained growth and we hope that next summer’s expansion will encourage many more Highlanders to use their local airport.”
In May 2015 easyJet also announced further additions to its Scottish network with the launch of flights from Edinburgh to Stuttgart and the addition of extra seats between Scotland and Stansted.
The airline, which already flies to Stuttgart from London Gatwick, Milan and Porto, will provide easy access and affordable services from Edinburgh starting 2 November 2015.
Flights will operate four times a week on Monday’s, Wednesday’s, Friday’s and Sunday’s with fares starting from £34.99 one way per person.
easyJet has also added over 77,000 extra seats between Edinburgh and Stansted and Glasgow and Stansted from 2 November.
The extra seats mean that Scottish passengers now have more direct flights between Scotland and London to choose from with prices as low as £23.49. easyJet now offers over 50 flights a day, across 10 different routes from Scotland to London.
In 2011 easyJet launched Scotland Flex which provides passengers with the opportunity to fly back early from any London Airport to any Scottish airport. As part of Scotland Flex passengers have the ability to change to an earlier flight and change the London airport they are returning from for free.