Air links concern

TWO North-east MPs have held talks with Scottish Secretary Michael Moore to voice their concern at the takeover of BMI by IAG, the company that owns British Airways.

Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce and Sir Robert Smith, who represents West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, described the meeting as “constructive”.

The Lib Dem MPs are concerned that the takeover will lead to a reduced number of flights between Aberdeen and Heathrow, with services to Heathrow being particularly important as they allow passengers to connect with onward flights to the rest of the world.

The sale of BMI has been referred to the competition authorities in both the UK and Europe who have the power to approve, reject or require amendments which remove competition concerns as part of the conditions of the sale.

The MPs hope these authorities will use their powers to protect slots for Aberdeen airport and other regional hubs.

Mr Bruce, who last month had asked the Prime Minister to do more to protect regional airports, said: “Having been assured by the Prime Minister that he is aware of the importance of landing slots at Heathrow to regional airports such as Aberdeen I want to ensure that the Government finds a way to protect them.

“I look forward to hearing back from the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister as to the steps that the Government will take.”

Sir Robert added: “It is vital to the economy of the region that Aberdeen airport maintains good links with Heathrow and therefore the rest of the world.

“The Government needs to explore what options are available to protect the landing slots for flights from Aberdeen to Heathrow.”

Both MPs described the Secretary of State as sympathetic to their arguments and the meeting as constructive.

During the meeting Sir Robert and Malcolm also pressed the case for devolving Air Passenger Duty to Scotland.

Meanwhile, IAG chief executive Willie Walsh is reported as saying the merger would pose no risk to services between Aberdeen and Heathrow.

Mr Walsh maintained the company are “absolutely committed” to services from Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow.