Heathrow Airport’s owners have announced a shake-up of the charges it imposes on airlines, raising the prospect of cheaper flights to and from Scotland.
The Scottish Government said the decision to introduce a new regional pricing model will lead to lower fares and incentives for airline companies to link up with Scotland from the UK’s biggest airport.
The announcement of a review by Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd, formerly known as BAA, comes after Virgin airlines gave up its Little Red domestic routes between Scottish airports and Heathrow.
The Scottish Government called for airlines to be charged less for domestic flights in its response to the Airports Commission, which was set up by UK government ministers to look at where a new runway should be built in the south of England.
It is hoped that a expected reduction in charges for companies connecting Heathrow to Scotland will be passed on to passengers and provide incentives for budget airlines such as Flybe, Ryanair and EasyJet to take over vacant domestic slots.
The prospect of a new runway at Heathrow has divided the UK government.
However, the new regional pricing structure will be introduced whatever decision is made on the issue and could mean that vital links from Scotland to the hub are restored.
The minister for transport and islands, Derek Mackay, said: “The Scottish Government warmly welcomes Heathrow Airport’s plans to develop a regional pricing structure.
“This was one of the key issues highlighted in the Scottish Government’s response to the Airports Commission.”
He added: “Regional pricing would help maintain key links between Scotland and London and would also encourage greater competition on these routes, ensuring passengers get the best ticket prices possible.
“We hope this move will incentivise other airlines to take up the slots being vacated by Virgin when they stop their domestic services in September so that tourists can easily connect to Scotland through this World Hub from long haul services.
“Whilst we remain impartial in terms of the Airports Commission’s work on increased capacity at Heathrow and Gatwick, we reintegrate our desire for a defined minimum level of access for flights from Scotland to ensure we adequately benefit from any new capacity.
“We could also take action now to protect our existing routes and secure new ones with the transfer of powers over Air Passenger Duty to the Scottish Parliament. This has already been agreed through the Smith Commission and we once again call for the UK government to make that happen as quickly as possible.”
The importance of Heathrow to the whole of the UK was highlighted last year when it published details of a record breaking year that saw 73.4 million passengers from around the world use the airport.
At the height of last summer, almost 250,000 passengers used the airport in a single day. It is estimated 30 per cent of passengers are business travellers while 70 per cent are tourists.
In total, 36 per cent of passengers arrive at the airport and transfer to another flight, including domestic routes to Scotland and elsewhere.
The airport also provides links to 185 destinations in 84 different countries.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said: “Expanding Heathrow could deliver over £14 billion in economic benefit and 16,000 new jobs across Scotland.”
He added: “Only Heathrow can connect Scotland to global growth. Let’s get on with it.”
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