The government has confirmed it is prepared to intervene to reserve slots at Heathrow for flights to airports in nations and regions around the UK if expansion goes ahead.
Public Service Obligations (PSOs) will be put in place by the UK government to protect routes if required, which would also exempt them from Air Passenger Duty.
It would mark the first time that flights from Heathrow to regional airports have been safeguarded.
PSOs already exist to protect flights from one city to another but reserving flights specifically from domestic airports to Heathrow would ensure direct links to the UK’s hub airport.
The news follows confirmation that the government wants about 15% of the new capacity at an expanded Heathrow to be used for domestic flights, and it comes as the government confirms that Scotland can expect to benefit from an extra 100 flights a week to and from Heathrow if a third runway is built.
Extra capacity could not only help secure and expand the number of existing routes to UK nations and regions but also be used for new connections.
Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “Heathrow is situated in the south-east of England, but the benefits of expansion will be felt throughout the UK. About 15% of the new capacity will be used for flights to destinations within the UK or Crown dependencies. And now we are going even further by confirming that the UK government will act to protect domestic flights from Heathrow for the first time.”
The Government says further details about the use of PSOs to protect flights from Heathrow to other specific airports will be set out in the green paper on the Aviation Strategy later this year.