Airport hits back at being blamed for service axe

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GATWICK Airport has hit back at an airline’s claims that its rising charges have caused the axing of daily Leeds to London flights.

Flybe will end its three-flights-a-day service from Leeds Bradford Airport to Gatwick on March 31.

As reported in yesterday’s YEP, the airline says that regional aircraft using Gatwick have been hit by larger rises in landing fees than long-haul flights. Flybe said that abandoning the London-bound service was a “direct consequence” of the “substantially” increased landing fees.

The YEP understands that the rise in landing fees is 60 per cent.

The service from Leeds Bradford Airport has been used by 50,000 passengers over the last year.

But Gatwick Airport has hit back at the airline’s claim. A spokesperson said: “With demand for air travel set to increase, we need to make the most efficient use of our single runway and existing infrastructure.

“In setting the airport charges at Gatwick for the next year, we have only increased the aircraft landing fees during the busy summer period when travel demand is at its highest and capacity at the airport at its most restricted.

“We have removed landing fees at Gatwick during the quieter winter period to encourage greater all-year-round use.

“Gatwick continues to charge lower landing fees for smaller, quieter, less polluting aircraft, such as used on regional services.

“This pricing structure reflects Gatwick’s ongoing commitment to encouraging more environmental travel.

“Naturally we are disappointed by Flybe’s business decision to remove the Leeds Bradford to Gatwick service, particularly given domestic travel from Gatwick remains competitively priced. Indeed, in terms of airport charges it is cheaper, by almost £4 per passenger, for an airline to fly to the UK regions from Gatwick than, for example, to France from Gatwick.”

A spokesperson for Flybe told the YEP: “Lifeline routes from the UK regions to London rely on a year-round sustainable timetable and are impossible to run for just a few months in the winter.”

Tony Burdin, chief executive of Sheffield Mutual Friendly Society

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