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Aviation: Newquay-Heathrow - how and why?

Details of a new route between Newquay and London Heathrow have emerged. The link will operate four times per day starting in March 2019, replacing three daily runs to Gatwick that are supported by a Public Service Obligation (PSO) agreement funded by the UK government. Arrivals into Heathrow at 0830, 1205, 1540 and 1955 are complemented by returns to Cornwall at 0915, 1245, 1620 and 2040 – a very tidy schedule and nice day’s work for the 78-seat Flybe Bombardier Q400 that will be deployed on it.

On the face of it and compared to everything else that is going on in the airline and airport world – not to mention the wider UK – this might seem to be trivial news, albeit very good for the people and industry in the southwest of England. It’s not often that a completely new domestic route to Heathrow is announced, let alone one flown with a turboprop four times every day, so something significant must have occurred to enable it happen now.

Almost everyone involved appears to be claiming to have played a part. Cornwall Airport Newquay’s Managing Director Al Titterington, said: “We have been working for many years to make sure that Cornwall Airport Newquay has direct access to Europe’s busiest hub, and with this new service it opens not just a connection to the UK’s leading gateway, but also the world.”

Titterington has previously gone on record as stating that if the route was transferred from Gatwick to Heathrow, traffic would increase by as much as 30%, primarily due to the better global connectivity on offer at the west London airport. Connectivity is of course one of the cornerstones of Flybe’s attempts to revive its fortunes, as it is looking to sign up more code-share agreements with long-haul airlines.

John Holland Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport also added his seal approval: “We are delighted to secure a more regular service to Newquay, connecting exporters from Cornwall to global markets through Heathrow and making it easier for inward investors, tourists and students from all over the world to get there. Following the successful launch in 2016 of an Inverness service, the UK’s two furthest mainland airports will now be connected to the UK’s biggest port.”

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling didn’t miss the opportunity to promote his department’s role in the switch, telling parliament that: “This new route between Cornwall Airport Newquay and Heathrow Airport, supported by the government, will provide passengers with hundreds of links to global destinations opening up new travel and business opportunities.”

Most ministers like to talk up their involvement in good news but when he said “supported by the government”, The Aviation Oracle assumes all he actually meant was that the PSO has been renewed – which it has. It seems almost inconceivable that the government would intervene to move one domestic air service to Heathrow while not doing the same for others.