By John Grainger, Business editor
Direct flights between Yorkshire and London Heathrow were reinstated on Monday when the first British Airways service touched down at Leeds-Bradford Airport (LBA) after an absence of 32 years.
The new service, which will run four times a day, has been warmly welcomed by the region’s business community, as it provides quicker access to Heathrow’s 170 destinations around the world.
Tony Hallwood, commercial director at LBA, said: “In the Harrogate area there are lots of SMEs that want to access new markets and when we’ve spoken to companies around the region, the one route they’ve said they want is Leeds-Bradford to London Heathrow.
“It opens up the region to the rest of Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas.
“We realise that a thriving regional economy needs good air links to London and the South East and our aim is to make the price as competitive as possible.”
Flights on the new route, which take 80 minutes, cost from £55 one way, including taxes.
The inaugural Airbus A319 was met by a welcoming committee including MPs and MEPs, airport senior management – and the chief executive of Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Brian Dunsby.
Mr Dunsby said: “These new BA services connect Yorkshire to the whole of the world through Heathrow – and now the whole of the world will find it easier to get to Harrogate.”
Mr Hallwood said that around 10 per cent of the airport’s passengers came from Harrogate and the surrounding area, and that the new route is expected to see Harrogate-based passenger numbers grow by 20-15 per cent.
He said: “We’ve just spent £11 million improving our airside facilities to best-in-class standard, and we now have the facilities to increase passenger numbers from 3 million to 3.5 million over the next 18 months or so and to 4.5 million within the next five years.”
Mr Dunsby added: “There is already an excellent Airport Express Bus Service to and from Harrogate every hour whilst we are also campaigning hard for an airport station on the Harrogate line as part of the electrification project.”