THE Labour MP for Harrow West, Gareth Thomas, who is also the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Gujaratis (APPG), joined other parliamentary representatives as they called on airports and airlines for more direct flights to Gujarat from Heathrow.
The group met Heathrow airport policy lead Richard Gale in Parliament on July 17 to discuss the need for improved flight links, reducing fares for passengers and boosting UK exports to India. The flight to Ahmedabad via Delhi and Mumbai is often expensive and timeconsuming, the MPs said.
Recently, Air India decided to shift direct flights to various Indian cities, including Ahmedabad, from Heathrow and instead fly from Gatwick.
Gale said, “Post-Covid, London Heathrow airport accounted for £6 billion of travel/cargo business to India in 2022. It is important for us to further expand our route network to capture the ever-growing Indian market.
“We look forward to providing slots to various airlines for India and especially Gujarat and helping carriers to do so.”
In addition, it was suggested that the transit visa fee of £35 charged to passengers from other countries, including Indians, using UK airports while travelling abroad is making travel more expensive.
Thomas, who is also the shadow minister for international trade, said, “Gujaratis living in the UK travel to the Indian state on business or holiday trips, so it is necessary to increase the direct flights from London Heathrow to Gujarat.”
Sanjay Jagatia, the APPG secretary, added, “We received many emails and calls from concerned Gujaratis from all over the UK regarding the difficulties caused by Air India’s decision to fly from Gatwick instead of Heathrow airport.”
The Slough MP and shadow rail minister Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi said, “Earlier, I made a proposal to Heathrow airport chief of staff, Nigel Milton, for direct flights to Ahmedabad and Amritsar. “Heathrow may ask other airlines to fly more flights on these two key routes.”
He said the jobs of people who live in the area and work at Heathrow are also affected by the shift of flights to Gatwick. Gale said, “Various airlines, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, could try to do this. However, they rely heavily on revenue data for this. Previously, Jet Airways operated flights to Ahmedabad. IndiGo still mostly runs domestic flights.
“The recent new aircraft orders placed by Indian airlines could make a big difference. Their own decision is responsible for Air India’s decision to operate a flight at Gatwick.
“Almost every airline that operates that flight targets business travel, cargo, and connecting passengers.”
The meeting was attended by Ruth Cadbury, Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth; Virendra Sharma, Labour MP for Ealing Southall; Navendu Mishra, Labour MP for Stockport; Rob Aylesbury MP; as well as community leaders Mahendra Singh Jadeja, Ajay Chaurasia and Muna Chauhan.
The APPG for British Gujaratis said it will hold further roundtable meetings on this issue with other airlines and airports, including Birmingham and Manchester, to provide cheaper and more direct flights to Ahmedabad in Gujarat and other airports in India.