Agents in the northwest have called on British Airways to reinstate its Manchester-Gatwick service after its decision to axe the route hit sales to the Caribbean and other destinations.
The three-times-a-day domestic service was scrapped at the end of March and no other airline offers the route. The move means clients from Manchester who want to connect at Gatwick en route to the Caribbean, or parts of America and Europe, must connect in Europe or travel to Gatwick by coach or car.
Paul Cleary, managing director of Caribtours, said the decision would “make life a lot harder for agents and operators with clients in the north”.
He said: “When I heard about this, I was astonished. The north is a very lucrative market.”
Caribbean specialist Dijonn Taylor of Travel Counsellors said she was booking overnight coaches to Gatwick or flights to Heathrow with a bus transfer to Gatwick.
Taylor said: “This is really affecting my business. Compared with the same period last year this has caused my sales to fall by about 50%.
“It’s putting customers off, Manchester is very underserved for the Caribbean as it is and this just makes it harder.”
Kristina Hulme of Travel by Design in Cheshire said: “I’m having to send clients through Europe as I don’t want to lose the sale.
“They can connect in Brussels or Frankfurt, which is OK if they’re going for a week but not really if it’s just a few days.”
She added: “If something isn’t working then we should have some kind of forum to discuss how we can improve the situation.”
BA said: “The three-a-day Manchester-Gatwick service was withdrawn from the start of the summer schedule this year as it had not performed well enough for us to continue to operate it.
“As part of British Airways current strategy we are focusing on serving routes that are profitable to us and utilising our aircraft more effectively elsewhere.
“Obviously this has had an impact on passengers who have to find alternative ways of getting to Gatwick. British Airways does operate 11 flights a day from Manchester to Heathrow where there are excellent transport links to Gatwick.
“There are no plans to reinstate the Manchester-Gatwick route or to start direct flights from Manchester to the Caribbean.”
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