Airport bosses today called for urgent talks with the Scottish Government in a bid to save Aberdeen’s summer flight schedule to Spain.
More than 60% of Aberdeen’s leisure flights in July and August comes from holidaymakers travelling to Malaga and Alicante.
The firm that owns Aberdeen International Airport fears those routes could be in jeopardy after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced yesterday that travellers to and from Spain would have to quarantine themselves when arriving in Scotland.
Spain, along with Serbia, was left off the list of 39 “low risk” countries travellers can visit without having to self-isolate on returning.
AGS Airports, which owns and manages the airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton, said it is still unclear whether airlines will run flights or choose to cancel them as a result of the decision.
Derek Provan, chief executive of AGS Airports, said he was requesting a meeting with the Scottish Government to discuss what further measures could be put in place.
He said: “We have been calling for a targeted, risk-based approach which would allow us to safely re-establish routes and get our country moving again. Yesterday’s announcement means airlines can now start making decisions on what flights they will operate, however, the glaring omission is Spain which accounts for 60% of our leisure flights.
“It’s important we work quickly to bring the travel advice issued yesterday in line with the rest of the UK. We’ve requested a meeting with the Scottish Government to discuss what further measures could be put in place that would allow the lifting of restrictions and prevent airlines from cancelling routes to what is one of Scotland’s most popular and important tourism destinations.
“We’ve been calling for a list of air bridges for Scotland, now we have that we can start these discussions to see what route network will be available for the rest of 2020.
“We’re definitely starting to lose a lot of our summer holidays.
“Obviously the glaring problem is Spain – it’s a really important destination for Scotland.
“It’s more than 60% of the total leisure flights in Aberdeen.
“I think the First Minister gave clear instructions for the reasons why – there was concerns around Spain. I think she’s clearly explained and it’s important to work with the government to see how we can move forward.”
A review is planned for July 20, which at this point it is hoped more clarity might be available around allowing Spanish routes to go ahead without the quarantine process afterwards.
The First Minister said the decision would be kept under regular review to see if cases of the virus decrease enough.
Ms Sturgeon said the “difficult decision” to not include Spain was based on evidence.
She said: “I know how many people from Scotland enjoy travelling to Spain and I know how much we love welcoming Spanish tourists. My hope is these restrictions can be relaxed soon, and possibly very soon.”
Mr Provan added: “We’ve asked for a meeting with the Scottish Government. We’d like to find out if the issue is with the Spanish mainland and not with the Balearics or Tenerife. We need to find out as quickly as possible how to get Spain back on the list.
“We’ll be speaking with the airlines to understand how they are going to take this decision, predominantly right now our concern is around Spain services.
“Airlines may still operate or they may choose to cancel flights. Once we understand that, we’ll know what our possibilities are.
“We really need to have a clear understanding of it as Spain is a big holiday destination, especially in the north-east.”
Marc Crothall, chief executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said: “The news that pain is not on the list of air bridges announced today will come as a blow to the aviation sector and our tourism industry with Spain representing a huge proportion of restart plans.
“The Spanish market accounted for 205,000 visits to Scotland in 2018 and with many Scots now expected to shelve plans to travel to the destination, it may be likely that airlines will abandon plans to capture the summer market which would have been required to avoid mass redundancies across the sector. We are, however, hopeful that both Spain and Serbia may be included at the next review point, on July 20.”
A spokeswoman for Ryanair, which operates flights to Alicante and Malaga, said: “Our flights between Spain and UK will continue to operate as planned.”