A BID to enhance air links to the Highlands and Islands has been launched.
Fears that existing links between the major airport serving Moray and the Highlands, Inverness Airport and Gatwick in London could be under threat, are behind the move.
The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) is concerned landing slots for domestic flights at Gatwick and Heathrow airports may be lost to more profitable long-haul flights because of the Government’s opposition to new runway developments in South East England.
As a result, hopes of re-establishing flights between Inverness and Heathrow – seen as a highly beneficial development for the Highlands – could be dashed and existing services to Gatwick may suffer.
The warning came as the latest figures from airport operator Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) showed continuing growth in demand for flights between the Highland capital and London.
HITRANS Partnership Director, Dave Duthie, said: "Both partnerships have major concerns about the prospects of retaining high quality air links to and through London in the medium to long term if the Government’s policy stance of not supporting the development of any new runways in the South East of England is maintained.
"Landing slots at the UK’s two most important gateway airports – Heathrow and Gatwick – would be at a premium in the increasingly constrained capacity that would result from this.
"Those slots currently used by services from the more peripheral regions of the UK would be under severe pressure from airlines seeing use of slots for new long-haul services as offering the prospect of higher margins."
An indepenednt report commissioned by HITRANS promotes the case for expansion at Inverness Airport but says there has been a lack of focus by UK Government over the last 20 years on the need to protect domestic air links with the two major London airports.
The report highlights "lack of focus" by Government over the past 20 years on the need to protect domestic air links with Heathrow and Gatwick.
HITRANS hope to enlist the support of Highland politicians, the area’s business community and other users of London air services to press for their retention and improvement.