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Note: It has come to our attention that Simon Cole-Hamilton (Director, Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce) objects to this webpage. Whilst we applaud both his own and his organisation's efforts to restore the Inverness-Heathrow air link, we must point out that the following passages attributed to Mr. Cole-Hamilton were issued by him via a Press Release in January 1998 and have never been challenged.

Time has moved on; these comments were made almost two years ago. It is good to see that the Inverness & District Chamber is fighting for the restoration of the Heathrow link but Mr. Cole-Hamilton should accept that we were dismayed when he so harshly criticised us. It seems to us that back in 1998 many activists were forcefully demanding proper treatment for this area’s Heathrow link. This website is proud of its stand back in 1998 and pleased to see organisations like the Inverness & District Chamber carrying on the fight. So, well done Simon for fighting the good fight. But this webpage is part of the historical record and it must and will stand.

Here are Simon Cole-Hamilton's comments of 26 January 1998 (which we understand have been released for publication). If Mr. Cole-Hamilton (or anyone else) wants to deny or amend any of the following, then please email heathrow@lochness.co.uk. We think it is useful to have an open debate about this vital issue and hope that this helps visitors to this site to reach an informed opinion.
Please read the following with an open mind. Our reply to each point is shown in red...

From: Mr. Simon Cole-Hamilton, Director, Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce.
CALL FOR POSITIVE MESSAGE REGARDING LONDON AIR LINKS

Referring to recent letter/article on Mikko Takala's Web site enlisting international support to shame British Airways over their recent withdrawal of Inverness flights to Heathrow. Simon Cole-Hamilton, Director of Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce has commented that we should give out a positive message to the rest of the world rather than be setting up attacks on BA.

Why? BA has smashed and grabbed the Heathrow-Inverness flights from the Highlands & Islands. They are ALL gone. Travellers from overseas are statistically far more likely to end up at Heathrow than Gatwick and then they will face extra costs, extra journeys and extra inconvenience. FACT. BA can defend its own actions - it does not need our help.

Mr. Cole-Hamilton said: "No doubt Mr. Takala's motives in drawing international attention to BA's recent activities are well-meaning but headlines beamed across the world announcing that BA have "terminated ALL Inverness-Heathrow flights" do not do the Highlands any favours. I visited Mr. Takala's web site to be hit by a barrage of negative information about flying to the Highlands.

Yes. We are very negative about BA's unilateral dumping of the Highlands. However, no one, including Simon Cole-Hamilton, has been able to allege that what we say is untrue. Sorry, but the facts stand. The Highlands deserves much better than the second best solution it has been left with (even British Regional Airlines admits there are problems) and your organisation should be standing together with us to fight for a fair deal.

The casual viewer would think that flight access to the rest of the world has been lost altogether.

Nonsense. This appears to be mischief making. Could you, as a reader of these pages, possibly say that we are trying to tell you that there are no flights to the Highlands from London? (If so, then please let us know). There are three airlines with up to five flights a day serving Luton, Stanstead and Gatwick - but NOT Heathrow. All we say is that the Capital of the Highlands deserves a NUMBER ONE solution from the "world's favourite airline" and not a 2nd rate alternative.

Further investigation will reveal that we do have flights to "ghastly Gatwick" although having also read that page no one could possibly want to subject themselves to such a degrading and unpleasant experience.

Mr. Cole-Hamilton might well say that but we couldn't possibly comment!

"Let us face the facts - flights by one of our London operators have been relocated from one London airport, Heathrow, to another. Gatwick is not the end of the world - far from it - it is the 8th busiest airport in the world and a winner of many international airport awards. Further we are now served by three London airports whereas two years ago there was only one. Such traffic as used Heathrow in the past will now have to use one of the other three London airports serving us. Negative publicity will serve only to discourage visitors and tourists from flying to Inverness at all and will do no favours to our many small businesses dependent on their custom.

The truth harms no one. Mr. Cole-Hamilton says that we are being negative - we note he does not accuse us of untruthfulness. Negative does not equal untruthful and we stick by every single word in this website. We believe that travellers are happier to be told the truth about any possible hellish traumas they might endure on a journey, so that they can be prepared and take any necessary remedial action. No one wants to be kept half-informed. If you travel to Heathrow and are destined for the Highlands - then you better look at your route planner.

Mr. Cole-Hamilton says that Gatwick is not all that bad. As you trawl this website, you can decide for yourself.


"May I implore Mr. Takala and others to "talk-up" the Highlands and to do everything to encourage tourists to choose the Highlands of Scotland as their holiday destination in preference to anywhere else in the world.

Thanks Mr. Cole-Hamilton. But forgive us if we take no lessons in "talking-up" the Highlands from you. Nessie on the Net! and Highlanderweb Magazine are possibly two of the best pro-Highland Internet sites around. Between them, they've be awarded just about every top industry accolade and are proud to positively and actively represent the area on a global scale. I think these sites can be trusted to continue to seek to bring people here.

BA's changes have not helped us, so surely it is our duty to promote every means of access to our area, which would include letting visitors and others to know that they should now book flights via Gatwick, Stansted or Luton rather than Heathrow.

It seems that you have just admitted that BA have not helped the Highlands - so why carry on defending them? You don't win against monster sized monopolies hell bent on maximising Director and shareholder profit levels by tugging your forelock. This is a war in which the Highlands stands to lose a great deal of turnover. We owe it to the people and their businesses, as well as future visitors, to fight for our Heathrow slots. Not because it is Heathrow Airport - but because we all know, in our heart of hearts, that it is best deal for the Highlands.

"Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce have been as disappointed by BA's actions as has everyone else, and with others we are active in exploring avenues to protect our right to landing slots at Heathrow.

We don't appear to have a right to land at Heathrow - that is the whole point. If it wasn't so before, then the Tory Party made sure of it with their super-privatisation policy. New Labour don't look like handing out any favours either. The methods employed by Mr. Takala will do nothing but to deter visitors and annoy, but not shift, BA whose response next time may be far more drastic than a change of airport."

This is a war to save a vital air route into the Highlands. Every war carries with it a risk of losing but we have to win. That is why we ask the members of Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce to set aside Mr. Cole-Hamilton's comments and pledge to support Highland Council, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, numerous large and small local businesses, members of the public, newspaper campaigns (like the Press and Journal) and this website as we continue the fight for a fair deal.

If you feel as badly about what BA has done to this place as we all do, then we ask you to consider voting with your feet. Maybe there is another airline like Easyjet or AirUK that could get you here. Maybe you feel badly enough to change your whole transatlantic trip and go with another airline across the Pond. It's your decision. Please come to the Highlands - but please use your power as a consumer with a freedom to choose to show BA how you feel.


For further information (regarding the comments shown in black) contact:

Simon Cole-Hamilton, Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce

This website operates a policy of "right-to-reply" and we will be happy to publish any comments we receive from either Mr. Cole-Hamilton or Inverness & District Chamber of Commerce.

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