The launch of direct flights from Cornwall to London Heathrow is a huge step for regional connectivity and for our economy, writes Mark Duddridge.
The new service replaces Newquay’s connection to Gatwick and will see an increase from three to four return flights a day, seven days a week, with airline Flybe.
The timings are good for business and leisure, ideal for a full day’s meetings in London, a weekend on the beach in Cornwall, or a connecting flight to Dubai.
Heathrow is Europe’s busiest hub airport and the world’s second busiest when it comes to international travel. It handled 80 million passengers last year and has 84 airlines serving over 200 destinations.
That will help businesses in Cornwall compete nationally and internationally, and means more access to the global marketplace, which is crucial in emerging industries like space and renewable energy.
And Heathrow provides a gateway to Cornwall for the rest of the world at a time when overseas visitor numbers are growing from places like the USA, Australia and New Zealand. China and Russia also emerging as new markets.
Virgin Atlantic, part of the consortium that recently bought Flybe, sees opportunities to connect passengers between their long-haul and regional operations, so we can expect more codeshare and interlining agreements, which is good news for business and leisure travel, and inward investment.
Newquay’s connection to Heathrow is backed by a Public Service Obligation jointly funded by Cornwall Council and government to guarantee the route for the next four years. PSOs are used to subsidise vital regional air connections where a clear business case can be made.
In the last four years a similar PSO on Newquay’s Gatwick route saw traffic almost double to 160,000 passengers, accounting for 40% of people using Cornwall Airport Newquay last year, helping to underpin the £54.5m the airport adds to our economy each year.
The move to Heathrow brings increased frequency, easier access to central London (just 15 minutes on the Heathrow Express into Paddington) and global opportunities for our economy. It will help Cornwall do business with the rest of the world, and the rest of the world do business with Cornwall.
Mark Duddridge is chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership