British Airways’ long-awaited return to Leeds Bradford Airport connects Yorkshire to the mainstream of global economic growth, according to the airport’s chief executive.
John Parkin urged the Yorkshire business community to support the four-times daily service, which can connect business travellers to 170 worldwide destinations.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday: “British Airways has arrived. The region has asked for it, the region now needs to support it.”
Mr Parkin added: “Our vision for the airport is about connecting Yorkshire with the world and this morning I think we do that.
“If you have a situation where people in China and India and other locations around the world want to do business here in Yorkshire – and we want them to do business here – they have to be able to get here.
“The arrival of BA can allow the world to arrive in Yorkshire and to bring its investment, its economic power, everything that comes with being in the mainstream of global economic growth directly to this region.
“Businesses do not do business in locations they can’t get to. The world is now open to Leeds city region.”
Andy Lord, operations director at BA, said the service was made possible by his company’s £172m acquisition of BMI, which allowed BA to take advantage of new landing slots at Heathrow.
He told the Yorkshire Post: “We are very confident the route will be a success and will make a huge contribution to the economy in the region as well as bringing in travel and tourism and business into the UK which will benefit the overall UK economy.”
Leeds Bradford is one of the fastest-growing airports in the UK and contributes £100m in gross value added (GVA) to Yorkshire’s economy every year, said Mr Parkin.
He added that the new BA service, which starts in December, would bring another £10m in GVA.
Mr Parkin said: “The unmeasurable part of all this will be the businesses who were considering doing business in Britain and in West Yorkshire who before today would not have done so because of lack of international connectivity will now decide to do business here.Who knows what that will bring?
“If foreign investors can’t get to a place however attractive it is to invest in, it is a problem. Inward investment has to be able to get from A to B.”
A report last week by accountancy firm Ernst & Young revealed a fall in foreign direct investment in Yorkshire, ranking the region 10th out of 12 UK regions.
At the press conference, Mr Parkin was questioned about improved access to the airport.
He told the Yorkshire Post that the city region’s local enterprise partnership is looking at possible improvements, including light rail and better road links.
Regarding a new rail line, Mr Parkin said: “Government hasn’t got any money essentially. It’s either private sector or European funding and we are exploring both.”
The airport at Yeadon has land protected in its masterplan for a new station.
Mr Parkin said Leeds Bradford Airport is in favour of expansion plans at Heathrow and increased regional access.
He said: “If you go overseas and talk to people about doing business in Britain, they will talk about Heathrow as the most important piece of UK infrastructure that the rest of the world sees.
“That is the means to get here and do business in this country. What we are doing today is to plug Leeds Bradford, this city region, into that network around the world.
“In these current, troubled times, nothing could be more important.”
Leeds Bradford lost its link to Heathrow in March 2009, when BMI severed a connection that was unbroken for 23 years. BA’s last service between the two airports ended in 1980.
Asked about the commercial case for the new route, Mr Lord said: “The specifics are commercially sensitive, but we think there’s a huge opportunity with the business community as well as the leisure traffic for direct service and also the onward connectivity globally.
“We are very positive about the route.
“It really needs the support of the business community to ensure its success, but we wouldn’t be starting here if we weren’t confident that we could make it a success.”
Business and civic leaders welcomed the news. UKTI said: “This is a crucial step for companies looking to do business overseas.”