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British Airways say they have taken a difficult decision to reduce the number of flights between Leeds-Bradford Airport and London Heathrow.
Leaders of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce say the move by British Airways to cut the number of services each week by over 50 per cent to just 10 is “extremely disappointing”.
As well as affecting existing businesses, they fear it will discourage other businesses and some business events from coming to Harrogate.
Chamber president Mike Procter said:
The introduction of direct services to Heathrow was something we campaigned for over many years.
To now hear the services are being severely reduced is extremely disappointing. We have already heard from several local businesses who know this will limit their options when travelling, and reducing this important link can only discourage new businesses from moving into the Harrogate district.
British Airways said the service was being changed to reflect demand, with at least one flight in each direction every day of the week and two on the busiest days. However, opponents of the move have said the decision has not been made in the interests of business, but because Heathrow capacity is limited and long-haul routes are more profitable.
Sean Doyle British Airways’ director of networks said:
We are maintaining the important air link between Yorkshire and Heathrow, but have had to take the difficult decision to reduce the frequency of flights to match demand.
We will maintain a daily service and on the busiest days of the week there will be two flights a day to and from Heathrow.
We appreciate that the connections from Heathrow are important for business and leisure travellers and we are retiming the morning flight so that customers can more conveniently connect to more of our long-haul flights.
Phil Forster, Aviation Development & Corporate Affairs Manager, Leeds Bradford Airport, said:
We are disappointed with the decision of British Airways to reduce the frequency of its services to Leeds Bradford Airport.
As the international gateway for Yorkshire and given our continued support for a third runway at Heathrow, this news is disappointing for the largest region in the UK. We have previously stated that we believe Heathrow expansion will enable Yorkshire to attract even more inward investment, exports and tourism by providing greater reach to key international markets via our own air link to Heathrow.
We hope the people of Yorkshire will still fully support the route, enabling us to prove to British Airways that the largest region in the UK can support a viable and profitable service going forward.
Leeds Bradford Airport has previously supported calls for capacity at Heathrow to be expanded, to enable airlines to continue providing much-needed internal flights as well as the long-haul routes.
The revised schedule
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Chamber transport spokesman Brian Dunsby added:
We wholeheartedly back Leeds Bradford’s call for greater capacity at Heathrow, which has been part of our transport policy for some time.
The Heathrow links with LBA would have been more popular if the flights timings had much earlier arrival in Heathrow to enable attendance at all-day meetings – or to catch many more international flights to Europe and world wide.
These internal flights to and from the capital are absolutely vital for the Yorkshire economy – our businesses rely on the best possible links around the country and on to the wider world. Allowing airlines to drop internal flights in favour of long-haul routes will damage some Yorkshire businesses and therefore impair the economy as a whole.
We will continue to push for expansion at Heathrow, including a third runway, in order to prevent airlines having to make these choices and ensure they can continue to provide links between the capital and the rest of the UK.