I had a bit of a shock the other day when I realised that hardly anyone under 30 can remember a time when you could fly direct from Liverpool to Heathrow Airport.
It really doesn’t seem like something that should be lost in the mists of time, but for many people it is.
It was in 1992, during the recession that followed the first Gulf war, that British Midland pulled the plug, having run five flights every weekday for about four years.
The service lost money overall but, until the Gulf war, passenger numbers were growing at 8% per annum and viability was in sight, thanks in no small part to the loyalty of the business community – business travellers accounted for 58% per cent of the traffic.
The main reason the route was pulled was that British Midland wanted to use its precious London slots for new European services. Even in those days, Heathrow was struggling to cope with its own growth.
Other airlines have tried since to run a London service to London City Airport, Gatwick or Stansted, but none have lasted because none of those airports is a major world hub like Heathrow.
KLM had a go at running a service from Liverpool John Lennon Airport as a spoke to its Schipol hub, but it only lasted two years until the economic downturn killed it off in 2011.
Currently, LJLA has no connections with any major hub airport and no direct flights to London.
Those are two serious gaps in the city region’s connectivity and there is only one way that they will ever be plugged: expansion of Heathrow Airport.
There is huge pent-up demand for such a service. In 2013, more than 1.1 million passengers from LJLA’s core catchment area flew from other UK airports on connecting flights to Heathrow.
That’s why the Chamber is supporting LJLA in lobbying the Airports Commission to come out in favour of more runway capacity at Heathrow.
Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle are also making the same argument for similar reasons.
A direct route from Heathrow to LJLA will make it easier for potential investors to get here. Meanwhile, the absence of direct flights is bound to make them wonder why the city doesn’t seem to merit an air link with the capital.
As far as Liverpool and Merseyside are concerned, the expansion of Heathrow can’t come soon enough.