Flybe CEO Saad Hammad has welcomed the proposal put forward by Heathrow Airport last week to push forward with capacity expansion that will significantly benefit regional operators.
The plan features a proposal to fast-track extra capacity within four years with an extra 25,000 new flight movements by 2021 on existing runways. In addition, and to help establish new domestic connections, it would ring-fence this early additional capacity solely for domestic flights, extend until 2037 a £10 discount for every departing passenger flying from Heathrow to a UK destination, and bring forward a £10m ‘route development fund’ to 2021.
Flybe operates a large fleet of smaller, environmentally efficient aircraft and with ambitions to extend its network to incorporate Heathrow, Hammad has long pushed for the airport to provider greater access to regional operators.
Hammad has stressed that any future hub airport in London needs to be a truly ‘national’ asset rather than something built solely to serve South East-based passengers or global passengers connecting through the South East.
“Flybe is heartened by the proposed plan announced last week by Heathrow,” he said. “It paves the way for us, as champions of regional connectivity, to jump quickly into action. I am confident we are now in a good position to explore the viability and commercial feasibility of introducing a number of critical new routes for domestic connectivity as soon as the new slots were to become available at Heathrow, to and from where many of our codeshare partners offer seamless onward long haul connections for regional passengers.”
In the interim before additional capacity is added in 2021, Flybe will continue to lobby the UK government for RAF Northolt to be utilised temporarily for scheduled commercial flights. This readily available option could immediately serve to link under-served regional airports to London, either for point to point travel or for onward connections to Heathrow from RAF Northolt that is only a short drive away.
“This proposal is independent of any future plan for new airport capacity in the South East and is a solution that is available right here, right now,” adds Hammad. “It would bring the advantages of additional runway capacity to serve UK passengers in the immediate term and without requiring any taxpayer funding.
“To effectively compete in a post-Brexit environment whilst a third runway is built in the South East, and in light of the new Heathrow plans, Flybe would strongly urge the Government to give an expanded Heathrow the green light. Together we can then start without further undue delay to deliver the fastest, most convenient and frequent selection of regional air services that Britain badly needs.”