Axed London flights a ‘blow’ to town’s trade

FLIGHTS linking Harrogate to London from the district’s airport have been axed in a row over landing fees.

Direct flights from Leeds Bradford International Airport (LBIA), run by Flybe, ended on March 31 after Gatwick increased its summer fees by up to 60 per cent.

The chief executive of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Brian Dunsby, has said this is a real blow to the town as it is reliant on the link for its conference and exhibitions trade.

“The loss of the London flights is very serious,” he said.

“It means that we cannot easily attract international delegates to conferences and exhibitions in Harrogate. They will have to come by rail which is a much longer journey.

“For Harrogate business people wishing to travel overseas it’s not at all convenient. Ties to London are very good, but not if you want to go to the airport for long haul flights.”

It is the second such service to be axed in two years, after BMI cut its links to Heathrow in March 2009.

This service was stopped after more than 30 years because of rising costs from BAA and the introduction of air passenger duty.

Flybe says it has decided to cut its three flight a day service after Gatwick increased its landing fees by up to 60 per cent over the summer months.

The service, which had proved extremely popular, was used by 50,000 passengers over the last year alone.

This week, a spokeswoman for LBIA confirmed that the airport was looking to replace the service as soon as possible.

“There is a campaign and we are doing something about it,” added Mr Dunsby.

“The chamber, and others, is pushing for Heathrow and Gatwick to reinstate these services.

“We need flights to London from Leeds Bradford.”

Mr Dunsby says the best link now would be to travel via Amsterdam, as there are six flights a day running through the week.

Jet2 runs two flights a day during the week, and on March 28 operators KLM announced that it was adding a fourth flight to the three it ran on a daily basis.

This would increase connectivity to Amsterdam’s Schiphol hub, which Mr Dunsby said would provide a vital link to Europe from Harrogate.