TEESSIDE Airport’s route to London Heathrow has been shelved after a sharp increase in take-off and landing fees forced provider Loganair to stop the popular route. But writing exclusively in today's Northern Echo, Ross Baker, chief commercial officer at Heathrow Airport, says they are pushing for a return of the Teesside route.  

Multiple benefits flow to businesses and communities right across the UK when they are connected to Heathrow. Whether that’s increased inward investment, more inbound tourist spending or regional exporters connecting with customers in new markets around the world – the opportunities to be gained are of great value to the whole of the UK and it is why we have made boosting domestic connectivity a top priority. We have worked hard to create the right conditions to ensure regional connectivity into Heathrow thrives.

Read more: Teesside Airport's London route cancelled by Loganair

In 2017, we introduced a discount for domestic passengers to cut the cost of flying within the UK. We are the only UK airport to offer a domestic discount to support connectivity across the UK and beyond. The pandemic hit us hard, but despite losing over £4bn so far from COVID, we have continued to offer a discount for domestic flights because we believe this matters for passengers and for regional and global connectivity.

The Northern Echo: Loganair has shelved its route from Teesside to HeathrowLoganair has shelved its route from Teesside to Heathrow

We were one of the leading voices calling for HM Treasury to cut domestic Air Passenger Duty – which is now set to come into force early next year. When the pandemic gave opportunities for new airlines and routes to be served on a temporary basis – such as Teesside – we pushed Government to support measures that would allow these new entrants the ability to continue to operate; even when existing airlines began to return.

Over the past six months, we have held detailed discussions and met many times with Teesside Airport, mayor Ben Houchen and his office to find different solutions to help support the Teesside-Heathrow route. We have been keen to make this route just as successful as many of our other domestic connections. Our CEO, John Holland-Kaye, visited the airport, freeport and local businesses in December 2021 to understand how we can help maximise the benefits of a Heathrow connection for the region, as we fully recognise the importance of the exports from this area in making Heathrow such a big port. Frustratingly now, a commercial decision has been taken to end the route. The people of Teesside deserve to know that this is not from a lack of effort by Heathrow and nor is it down to our charging structure.

Read more: Teesside Airport's future after London Heathrow flight axed

Indeed, despite the decision to drop the Teesside connection, Loganair and others are still operating various domestic flights at Heathrow with the same charging structure in place. We’ve also just seen UK regional airline Flybe relaunch domestic services to Leeds and Loganair to the Isle of Man from Heathrow. The proof is in the pudding – airlines are operating many domestic services successfully at Heathrow. With Loganair also deciding to pull another Teesside service to Southampton, it demonstrates it’s not down to Heathrow charges that routes are being cancelled. This is why we are disappointed in the Mayor’s comments, particularly given the work Heathrow has been engaged in behind the scenes.

The last two years have really hit the UK’s travel sector. It’s easy to think that a major airport won’t experience the same impact, but we have. We are at the start of a very long road to recovery but there are significant challenges ahead – the cost of living crisis, the ongoing war in Ukraine, rising fuel prices, continuing travel restrictions for key markets like the United States and the potential for another variant of concern this autumn are real challenges that we will have to deal with.

The Northern Echo:

Whatever the future holds, our commitment to connecting every part of the UK to Heathrow will remain undimmed. We could not agree more that fast and reliable domestic connections are integral not only to seizing the opportunities of Global Britain and levelling up, but also to the UK’s economic recovery from COVID. We want to see Teesside Airport connected with Heathrow and onwards to the world. Our door is always open and we will continue to work with the Mayor, Teesside International and local businesses and regional leaders to find a way forward.

Ross Baker is the chief commercial officer at Heathrow Airport


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