Page last updated at 16:48 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Scrap north-south Wales air route call

Jetstream 31. Pic: Highland Airways
The north-south Wales route receives an 800,000 subsidy

The company operating the north to south Wales air route says it hopes to restart online bookings.

While flights continued, Highland Airways had suspended online booking after confirming that it was facing "difficult trading" conditions.

But Liberal Democrats want the twice-daily Anglesey-Cardiff flights scrapped, and its public subsidy used on "green public transport".

The service has £800,000 a year funding from the Welsh Assembly Government.

"It is now time to end this costly debacle before even more public money is poured into a service that is both economically and environmentally unsustainable," said Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems.

Flights are operating and passengers should continue to check in as normal
Highland Airways

"Welsh Liberal Democrats have repeatedly argued for the budget of nearly £1m to be spent on green public transport, so as to benefit hundreds of thousands of rail users."

Highland Airways was awarded a three-year contract to run the north-south Wales route from May 2007.

However, on Monday, all its online flight bookings were suspended.

Hopeful of survival

Management at the Inverness-based airline told staff that they were still hopeful of survival - despite what was described as "continuing difficulties".

Commercial director Basil O'Fee said in a statement on Monday: "The company is currently facing difficult trading, most recently exacerbated by the severe winter and resultant reduced flying and reduced income.

"The board has been seeking new investment and has been in discussion with several parties in recent weeks.

"The outcome of all these discussions should be judged within days rather than weeks," he said.

The company website said on Tuesday that it was business for usual for its passengers and flights.

"Flights are operating and passengers should continue to check in as normal," it stated.

"We hope to be able to resume online bookings later today.

"Thank you to all of our customers for their patience and continued support."

'Priority service'

Bidding for the new tender to operate the Cardiff to Anglesey route closed on Wednesday, and it is understood that only Highland Airways showed an interest.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Plaid Cymru leader and Anglesey AM, has described the service as an "essential link".

"Ideally, we want Highland to remain running this route whilst they look for new investors," he said.

"If this is not possible and we face a worse case scenario with Highlands going into administration, we hope any administrators could continue the service.

"If the administrators were unable to do this, the assembly government will look for an interim solution to continue running the route - we feel we could do this fairly quickly to ensure passengers continue to have a service. One option would be to issue an interim contract.



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SEE ALSO
Clarity call on Welsh air route
25 Jan 10 |  North West Wales
Airline bosses admit 'problems'
25 Jan 10 |  Highlands and Islands

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Wales Online Wednesday, 27 January 2010 - 9 hrs ago
Inverness Courier Inverness-based airline's future hangs in balance - 29 hrs ago



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