The Highland Council has commenced a tender for air services to and from Wick John O’Groats airport.
Since the coronavirus crisis struck, the air services between it and Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports have remained suspended, with “little prospect of adequate flight frequency being delivered by the open market in the foreseeable future”, according to a statement.
An initial business case to prove the requirement for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) from Wick was developed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce, with funding support from Dounreay Site Restoration, and partners including the Highland Council were subsequently successful in securing funding from Scottish Government to deliver this and enable the return of scheduled air links.
A public tender, inviting airlines to bid with their costs to re-establish air services – with minimum specified standards of acceptability in terms of frequency and utility – has been prepared and issued.
Key elements of tender include that airlines offer connectivity and cost control solutions through any fresh approaches, while increasingly sustainable aviation is also being encouraged. It also recommended a spread of fares to appeal to the broadest of air travellers is encouraged.
A collaborative group will be established, drawn from a variety of regional stakeholders, to aid development of the flight services.
Leader of the Highland Council, councillor Margaret Davidson, commented: “We are looking to launch the flights at the beginning of next spring and have tried not to be too prescriptive, as we are encouraging bidders to come up with their own ideas on how they can best provide the service.
“There is a real commitment on the ground, especially from the Caithness Chamber of Commerce and other local stakeholders, to make this work, so we look forward to bids coming forward that match our aspirations for the future.”
Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said: “Once in place, these flights will play a vital role in enabling the economic recovery of the region from the pandemic, and in enabling the development of future opportunities in sectors such as renewable energy and aerospace.”
The Provost of Wick, councillor Willie Mackay, added: “There is no doubt that reintroducing air links will allow the North of Scotland to grow and expand – as well as extending the aviation network, there is the potential to tap into the big boom in tourism to the north of Scotland and many other economic benefit spin offs.”
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