BA will not restore old domestic links from Heathrow / PA

Transport secretary and airport boss promise better connectivity

The boss of Heathrow’s biggest airline group has told The Independent there is “zero chance” it will restore flights to UK airports such as Liverpool and Newquay when more slots become available.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG — which owns British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia — ruled out the possibility his group would operate such flights.

Earlier at the Airport Operators Association annual conference, Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, had said that 25,000 more slots could become available as the airport prepared for a third runway. He held out the prospect that some lost domestic links to UK regional airports could be restored: “It could mean that Liverpool and Newquay get connectivity within the next five years.”

But responding to a question from The Independent, Mr Walsh said: “We’re not interested in these artificial routes. We’ll go where there’s demand. The aspirations people have on domestic links are very difficult to understand.

“You saw what happened with BMI and Little Red [Virgin Atlantic’s domestic operation, which has now closed]. It was a complete disaster.

“If John Holland-Kaye begs me to fly to Newquay and Liverpool I won’t do it. If he says he’ll give me £10m I’ll think about it.”

Mr Walsh has expressed strident opposition to airlines paying increased fees to finance expansion at Heathrow. 

Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, said that slots at an expanded Heathrow airport would be ring-fenced for regional airports: “We need to make sure that capacity reserved for regional connectivity is at a time of day that will make a difference to that regional connectivity.”

Two low-cost airlines that do not currently fly to Heathrow have expressed interest in setting up domestic networks when slots become available. Flybe and easyJet have said they foresee operating to a wide range of UK airports, including Carlisle, Dundee, Liverpool and Newquay. 

In the Airport Operators Association awards, Heathrow was chosen as the best large airport for the second year running.

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