Major changes to the way Air Passenger Duty is levied will be required if Scotland is to attract more direct long-haul flights, first minister Alex Salmond argues.
The aviation industry says reducing or abolishing APD would strengthen the business case for new international routes from Scotland.
Salmond said: “We’re actually inhibited by the concentration of international flights at Heathrow, where they can’t cope because of huge congestion problems.
“It would be far better to have an effective devolution of Air Passenger Duty which would allow us to attract more direct international flights into Scotland and, indeed, the north of England.”
His comments came as tourism bosses warned that Scotland is losing out on millions of pounds in spending by visitors because of a lack of flights to Heathrow.
Senior executives from Heathrow and Gatwick have been in Glasgow in an effort to win Scottish support for their rival bids for a new runway.
But VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay warned that the Scottish tourism industry is facing more immediate problems, due to a lack of connections to Heathrow.
His comments follow Virgin Atlantic’s recent decision to axe its Little Red domestic services from Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Heathrow from next autumn.
That will leave Scottish tourism heavily reliant on British Airways, part of the Oneworld alliance.
Cantlay told BBC Scotland: “We want to make sure that every major airline servicing London and every major airline alliance, in particular Star Alliance and SkyTeam, get easy access to Scotland through London.”
Heathrow’s new Terminal 2 is used by Star Alliance, which includes United and Singapore Airlines.
It is designed to handle up to 20 million passengers a year, but Virgin’s decision will leave it without any flights to Scotland.
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “If we expand Heathrow, we will actually need more flights from other parts of the UK to support the 14 new long haul routes that we’ll be trying to attract.
“That will mean we’ll need more flights from Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as flights from cities like Inverness.”
Sourced from Travel Weekly