Bristol Airport flyer: Free travel for most OAP concessionary pass holders to be scrapped

South Bristol Tory Cllr Richard Eddy has launched a campaign against the move by Bristol Airport

Bristol Airport has been accused of “discriminating against the elderly and infirm” after scrapping free bus travel for most OAP concessionary pass holders.

South Bristol Tory Cllr Richard Eddy has launched a campaign to get bosses to reverse their decision to stop allowing Diamond Card passengers to make local trips on the A1 Airport Flyer while still accepting paying customers.

Bishopsworth Cllr Eddy says that although the service between the airport, Bristol bus station and Temple Meads is intended mainly for those jetting off on flights, it has become a “lifeline” for many in western Bedminster Down and Highridge which have poor public transport.

As well as an express service for airport passengers and staff who live in South Bristol, the commercial bus also picks up paying customers and Diamond Card holders under an arrangement originally negotiated with Bristol City Council.

But with aviation custom increasing as the sector emerges from the pandemic, airport managers say they now need to increase spare capacity on the route and are reverting to pre-covid use of the local authority concessions card from Sunday (April 24).

Bishopsworth Cllr Richard Eddy says that the service has become a “lifeline” for many in western Bedminster Down and Highridge which have poor public transport.

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Cllr Eddy is outraged and hopes to secure the support of metro mayor Dan Norris, who leads the West of England Combined Authority (Weca) which has responsibility for the region’s strategic transport.

The Conservative councillor said: “I concede that the A1 Airport Flyer is a commercial service, paid for by the airport, and is not there primarily to plug shortcomings in the public transport system.

“Nevertheless, the No 52 bus service operated by Bristol Community Transport through Highridge and western Bedminster Down is extremely poor, running only five times during a working day, never in the early morning or evening, and not over weekends or on bank holidays.

“The A1 has become an absolute lifeline for local people who do not wish to be marooned in their homes and may not have access to private transport.

“For precisely this reason, local councillors put pressure on Bristol City Council, which was able to negotiate with Bristol International Airport (BIA), including allowing holders of the OAP concessionary Diamond Card to use the service free of charge up to the city boundary.

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“Now Weca has taken over responsibility for public transport, I’ve written to Dan Norris, seeking his backing for our campaign.

“While I want to see increased demand for the Airport Flyer, I do not believe in a million years that every seat on a bus which runs every 20 minutes each day will be required by BIA.

“In these circumstances, it seems the airport management is discriminating against the elderly and infirm.”

Cllr Eddy’s campaign to get the airport to think again is being backed by Sue Mullins, 68, one of the many older people in Bedminster Down who uses the A1 bus regularly.

She said: “I utterly rely on this bus to get into town and back. I can’t walk down steep Kings Head Lane to catch the 75 or 76 bus due to my mobility problems.

“I am concerned that this bus remains available to us and that age concessions continue to be accepted.”

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What Bristol Airport say

A Bristol Airport spokesperson said: “We’re committed to providing alternatives to the car for the passengers travelling to and from Bristol Airport.

“The A1 Airport Flyer is a busy, dedicated airport service that links us with Bristol’s city centre, bus station and Temple Meads railway station.

“When the number of air passengers dropped during the pandemic, the A1 Flyer’s route was changed, it made more stops, and residents with local council concessionary passes were able to use them.

“Air passengers have returned in large numbers since the UK and other countries lifted their covid travel restrictions and we are expecting a busy summer.

“As travel returns to normal, the A1 Airport Flyer will need to return to being an express service for air passengers and staff, but we do offer subsidised bus travel for those living in the rural areas closest to Bristol Airport and holders of the Bristol Airport Local Concessions card.”

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