Flybe is axing its popular service between Leeds Bradford International Airport and Gatwick at the end of the month – severing airborne links between West Yorkshire and London.

The move comes after a year which saw more than 50,000 passengers using the three-flights-a-day service.

It means business travellers will have no direct flights to the capital for the second time in two years.

Airport chiefs are seeking to find a replacement operator.

Business leaders have expressed their concern at the move, saying that if LBIA is to develop as a truly regional airport it needs direct links with London.

Flybe is withdrawing the service it launched in 2009 after stepping in to provide a LBIA-London link after following BMI’s decision to axe its service from Leeds Bradford to Heathrow in March of that year.

The Gatwick flights will cease on March 31.

The Exeter-based airline, which operates four other services from LBIA, has blamed the rise in landing charges at Gatwick for its decision.

A spokesperson said: “Flybe carefully reviews the viability of all routes on a regular basis.

“The suspension of this route is a direct consequence of the policies being implemented by Gatwick to limit the number of smaller, regional aircraft landing at their airport.

“Their decision to substantially raise the landing fees for regional aircraft – while implementing smaller rises for larger, more polluting and noisier long-haul aircraft – will hit the regions of Yorkshire and the Humber hard.

“More than 50,000 passengers flew from Leeds Bradford to London Gatwick with Flybe in 2010. They have now been deprived of a link to the capital because of the charging regime being adopted by Gatwick’s new owners. Flybe remains committed to operating its remaining routes at both London Gatwick and Leeds Bradford airports.”

Harold Robinson, president of Bradford Chamber of Commerce, which represents around 1,100 local businesses, said the decision to axe the Gatwick service was a major blow.

He said: “This is bad news for Bradford businesses. At a time when road congestion is worsening and the rail network is stretched to capacity, one would think that air travel is the way to go.”