Business and tourist chiefs hail return of direct Heathrow links

British Airways will fly from Heathrow to Leeds
British Airways will fly from Heathrow to Leeds
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Flights from London Heathrow look set touch down at Leeds-Bradford International Airport for the first time in more than three years.

Following its recent takeover of airline bmi, British Airways is planning to restore direct scheduled flights between the two airports.

The measure was widely welcomed by businesses leaders and tourism chiefs across the region yesterday.

Flights from Leeds-Bradford to Heathrow stopped in March 2009. Gatwick services from the airport operated until June last year.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company International Airlines Group, said the changes were possible because takeover meant BA was able to manage its landing and takeoff slots at Heathrow more effectively.

“Airports across the UK and beyond have contacted us about starting services and, subject to reaching satisfactory agreement with them, we plan to also launch flights from Heathrow to Leeds-Bradford, Rotterdam and Zagreb and increase frequencies to existing key destinations,” he said.

Tony Hallwood, commercial and aviation development director of Leeds-Bradford International Airport, said: “Previously when Heathrow flights operated we had regular contact with business travellers and leisure travellers.

“Links into Leeds and Yorkshire with easy connections through Heathrow help to transform how businesses do business and stimulate growth in the regional economy.”

Mark Goldstone, head of business representation and policy at Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, said: “Chamber members will be delighted to hear news of the potential restoration of connection to Heathrow.

“The chamber met with senior BAA directors, the owners of Heathrow, in February when they were seeking support on additional runway capacity.

“At that time we stressed the importance of connectivity to Leeds-Bradford as being fundamental in securing the support of members in this region.

“The news from British Airways will be well received particularly if we are seeking an export led recovery – the ability for business to get to markets and for tourists and investors to get to our region easily is vital.”

Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce has been lobbying for a restoration of the scheduled service between Leeds-Bradford and London Heathrow since 2009.

Brian Dunsby, chief executive of the chamber, said: “Many local businesses need the international connectivity with long-haul flights from Heathrow for their outbound sales missions and also to attract inward investors.

“Likewise overseas delegates to international conferences and trade exhibitions in the Harrogate International Centre will find the flights invaluable.”

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The loss of the London shuttle was a real blow to Yorkshire and the news today that British Airways are looking to re-establish the London to Leeds-Bradford air link is encouraging as it would undoubtedly be good news, not only for the Yorkshire business community but also the ever growing tourism economy.”

Long queues for immigration at airports risk damaging London’s reputation as a top tourist city, a hotel expert claimed yesterday.

Nigel Pocklington, of, spoke out as long lines of passengers waiting to pass through immigration checks snaked back through the arrivals hall at Gatwick Airport yesterday. Queues at Heathrow Airport have already caused a row amid fears that the delays may not be sorted out ahead of the Olympics.