Budget flight operator easyJet has confirmed it will not go ahead with new routes connecting Manchester to Edinburgh and Aberdeen following a recent travel ban introduced by the Scottish Government.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is due to speak with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday amid dispute over the ban, brought in over concerns about coronavirus cases in Manchester and Salford.
Mr Burnham said on Tuesday that he would be seeking a “political route” to end the dispute, but the consequences of the fallout remain evident with easyJet withdrawing its services.
The Manchester-Edinburgh route was due to take just 65 minutes and replace a service lost when Flybe ceased operations in March 2020.
An easyJet spokesman said: “Following the Scottish Government’s announcement that non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester is currently not permitted, unfortunately we are no longer able to operate our planned new routes connecting Edinburgh and Aberdeen with Manchester.
“Customers due to travel on these flights will be notified of the cancellation and informed of their options, which includes transferring their trip to an alternative destination on easyJet’s network or to a later date free of charge, or receiving either a voucher or refund for the entire value of their booking.
“We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by the latest news and cancellations.”
Mark Beveridge, operations director at Aberdeen International Airport, said: “This is hugely disappointing news from easyJet.
“Following the Scottish Government’s announcement that non-essential travel between Scotland and Manchester is currently not permitted, the airline are no longer able to operate its planned new route from Aberdeen to Manchester.
“We can’t continue like this and urgently need help and a plan that sets out how we can work towards the safe restart of travel.”
Mr Burnham claimed over the weekend that the ban was imposed without consulting Greater Manchester authorities, adding it was hypocritical of the Scottish Government which he claims regularly complains of being steamrolled by Westminster.
The Scottish Government was also rebuked by Holyrood Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone on Tuesday for not announcing the ban to MSPs but instead in a written question, despite the Scottish Parliament sitting when the announcement was made.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister, and Covid Recovery Secretary, John Swinney told Holyrood the Scottish Government will not acquiesce to Mr Burnham’s demands for compensation.
Meanwhile, a Scottish Conservative MP has accused the Scottish Government of “abandoning” the aviation sector.
Andrew Bowie, MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, told the House of Commons on Wednesday: “This morning we heard that as a direct result of the baffling and inconsistent travel ban placed on Scots going to Greater Manchester, easyJet have cancelled their newly-announced route from Aberdeen to Manchester, putting at risk many jobs in the north east of Scotland.
“Can I ask what work is being done by them – the minister and the Scotland office – to work to ensure that when it comes to international travel and reopening, the same rules and regulations will apply around the entirety of the UK, instead of leaving the Scottish aviation sector and the thousands of people it employs at the mercy of the Scottish Government, who completely abandoned them?”
UK Government Scotland minister David Duguid replied: “On the specific issue around easyJet and flights to Manchester they have made a commercial decision today, announced today, in response to the Scottish Government’s decision to regulate to prohibit travel to Manchester.
“This has been widely criticised as disproportionate and clearly Scottish Government ministers will be keeping travel regulations under constant review and there are clearly calls particularly for this particular regulation to be reviewed and in closer consultation with all interested parties.”