Airlines have been invited to bid for a contract to resume “lifeline” flights from Wick John O’Groats Airport, which is operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL).
Air services between Wick John O’Groats Airport and Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports have remained suspended since the pandemic started.
“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 Ltd, 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 to and from Wick John O’Groats airport,” said Highland Council.
“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 …”
Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said: “I am really pleased to see the tendering process begin.
“It is a significant step forward and indicates our commitment to restore air services to and from Wick John O’Groats airport.
“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.”
Caithness Chamber of Commerce CEO Trudy Morris said: “Once in place, these flights will play a vital role in enabling the economic recovery of the region from the COVID-19 pandemic, and in enabling the development of future opportunities in sectors such as renewable energy and aerospace.
“The chamber looks forward to continuing to work with partners including the council both throughout the tender process and as the flights being operation, to ensure that they deliver what is required for businesses and communities across the North Highlands.”
Highlands and Islands Airports Limited (HIAL) is responsible for the management and operation of 11 regional airports serving some of Scotland’s remotest communities including Barra, Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick John O’Groats.
As a private limited company wholly owned by the Scottish Ministers, HIAL receives subsidies from the Scottish Government in accordance with section 34 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982 and is sponsored by Transport Scotland – Aviation, Maritime, Freight and Canals Directorate.