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British Airways is to boost services to Scotland with the start of new daily flights from Heathrow to Inverness, gateway to the Highlands and Islands.

The new year-round service will start on May 3 2016, connecting Inverness directly with Heathrow’s T5 and British Airways’ global network, serving more than 130 destinations around the world.

British Airways operates up to 58 return services a day between Scotland and London’s Heathrow, London City and Gatwick airports, more than any other airline, and the most to any other country on the airline’s global network.

Operating an Airbus A319, with up to 143 seats, will also help encourage tourists from around the world to visit the region, famous for its dramatic landscape, turbulent history and the warm welcome of its people.

Denize Mcgregor, British Airways’ head of UK customer service and operations, said: “We are very pleased to be starting our new service to Inverness. As the capital of the Highlands, Inverness has a strong and diverse economy and has developed into a major centre for life sciences, commercialisation and research.

“British Airways’ daily flights will benefit the Inverness economy by linking the business community of the city and its environs with our global network of more than 130 destinations, and help boost the area’s vital in-bound tourism sector by bringing even more visitors to this beautiful and historic city, with its unique environment, scenery and culture.”

Inglis Lyon, managing director of Inverness Airport operator, HIAL, said: “We are delighted to welcome British Airways back to Inverness Airport. This is a significant achievement for the airport as British Airways is a world class airline, serving more than 130 international destinations from Heathrow, giving passengers from Inverness access to a truly global network.

“Through our efforts, and with the support of our partners, Inverness Airport has done what few other regional airports have achieved in recent years, attracting one of the world’s leading airlines and securing access to the UK’s hub airport at the same time.

“No other UK airport offers more worldwide connections than Heathrow, and no other UK airline offers more international destinations than British Airways. The potential benefits for business and inbound tourism are enormous.”

Local business has also backed the resumption of services between London and Inverness, welcoming the interest and much-needed investment it could bring to companies and people who live and work in the region.

David McMillan, LifeScan Scotland’s managing director, said: “This is fantastic news for the region, allowing small, medium and large businesses across the Highlands a direct link with Heathrow and beyond. Having this Inverness to Heathrow route is an important boost for connectivity.

“Specifically for LifeScan Scotland this offers our employees significant flexibility in their travel plans. Reviewing 2015, over 1,200 flights were taken by LifeScan Scotland employees travelling through London airports.”

Alex Paterson, Highlands and Islands Enterprise chief executive, said: "This is excellent news, which will open up new economic opportunities for the region. We are sure it will be of great interest to existing businesses and potential inward investors, and look forward to welcoming British Airways back to Inverness in 2016.”

Derek Mackay, Scottish Minister for Transport and the Islands, said: “This is fantastic news for the Highlands, offering a new direct link with London and opening up a wide range of onward connections from Heathrow.

“This is particularly important for Scottish businesses looking for improved access to global markets. It’s also a major boost for local tourism, making it even easier for visitors to get a taste of the fantastic experiences on offer in the Highlands.

“The Scottish Government is keen to support HIAL to continue to grow the number of routes available from Inverness Airport in the future, so I wish HIAL and British Airways every success with this venture and look forward to the new service taking off next year.”

One way hand baggage only fares are available from £47 from Inverness to Heathrow and from £60 from Heathrow to Inverness. Fares include a generous free hand baggage allowance and complimentary on board refreshments.