Published on : Friday, October 8, 2021
Airlines have been invited to bid for a contract to resume lifeline flights from Wick John O’Groats Airport.
Services to Edinburgh and Aberdeen were withdrawn last year after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the airlines industry.
Communities and local politicians called for the connections to be reintroduced.
In February, the Scottish government said up to £4m would be made available over the next four years to subsidise services.
Highland Council hopes an airline or airlines will take up the contract, which has been put out to tender.
An initial business case to prove the requirement for the public service obligation (PSO) routes was developed by Caithness Chamber of Commerce.
The nuclear industry has been funding projects set up in Caithness and neighbouring parts of Sutherland to create new employment opportunities to lessen the blow of the winding down and eventual closure of Dounreay.
PSO routes involve government subsidies and require the airline or company involved to provide a set level of services. The arrangement is used for flights serving the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland.
Highland Council said Caithness and Sutherland formed the “most peripheral part of mainland UK” with geographical challenges to connections with the rest of Scotland and wider UK.
Journey time by road from Wick to Aberdeen is more than four hours and it is five hours to Edinburgh.
Flights from the airport at Wick to Aberdeen take about 35 minutes and about an hour to reach Edinburgh.
Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said that they 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.
Trudy Morris, Chief Executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, said that the flights would play a vital role in area’s recovery from the pandemic.