Newquay hopes dashed as easyJet says no Gatwick route from March
The last scheduled flights providing a "vital" connection between the Westcountry and the capital are to be axed in 2014.
Luton-based budget carrier easyJet has said that there is "insufficient demand" to continue with flights between Newquay and Gatwick when it takes over the landing slots from Exeter-based Flybe on March 30.
EasyJet acquired 26 UK routes into Gatwick from Flybe – which currently operates three daily return flights between Newquay and Gatwick – in a £20 million deal last month.
EasyJet said it had "carefully and thoroughly" examined the commercial viability of offering year-round services on the route, saying: "All of the evidence clearly shows that there is insufficient demand to sustain such a service."
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A spokesperson added: "There was nothing [in the deal] stipulating evaluated routes and it's not commercially viable. The planes we fly are much larger than Flybe's."
Cornwall Council's cabinet member for partnerships, Adam Paynter, expressed "disappointment" over the budget airline's decision, in the wake of "detailed discussions" with the carrier.
He said: "Providing a regular air link to London is very important to the economy of Cornwall and we remain in discussions with a number of other airlines to maintain this vital link."
St Austell and Newquay MP Stephen Gilbert tweeted that he was "gutted" by easyJet's decision, adding: "It will be a blow to businesses across Cornwall."
Following the easyJet/Flybe deal, independent regional transport analyst Neill Mitchell warned it would be tempting for easyJet to use the valuable landing slots for alternative commercial routes.
But despite local hopes that it would maintain air links into Gatwick, the airline has decided against using the airport's landing slots for a Cornwall-bound service.
Adrian Paynter said that Cornwall Council would be seeking the support of the Duchy's six MPs and the Government to explore all options for maintaining a regular air link between Cornwall and the capital.
Neil Mitchell added: "It's very important that Devon and Cornwall remain on the aviation map of the UK, so people investing here will see we are part of the system.
But he cautioned: "It's a case of 'use it or lose it'. If there was sufficient demand, we'd have many airlines flying down here – so either there's no demand, or it's suppressed through lack of availability."
EasyJet plans to reintroduce two summer routes from Newquay next year, including to 'London' Southend airport – a 53-minute train journey from the capital's Liverpool Street. Its focus is upon leisure break options for travellers and says that the routes will boost Cornwall's tourism economy.
Business travellers were dealt a blow in 2011 when Eastern Airways axed flights to Gatwick from Plymouth and Newquay, following its acquisition of Air Southwest, saying the routes were not viable.