Thomas Cook Airlines is to enhance its existing link to the Turkish city of Dalaman and reintroduce flights to the Greek island of Kos from Newcastle International Airport in North East England during summer 2014 as it seeks to modify its schedule to meet the changing requirements of leisure travellers from the region. The new services were announced as the carrier’s parent, Thomas Cook Group, reported a much improved operating performance for the first half of this year.
Thomas Cook Airlines currently has a network that covers 24 destinations from Newcastle which are served with three based aircraft – two Boeing 757-200s and a single Airbus A320 – and handles upwards of 200,000 passengers per year. The introduction of an additional daily rotation to Dalaman will bring the route up to a daily operation during the summer 2014 schedule, while Kos will be served with a weekly Sunday afternoon rotation.
“Package holidays have always been important to us and will continue to be, but we are moving away and designing our flight programmes to be more adaptable. Years ago people largely went for seven or 14 night holidays but over time more people have wanted greater flexibility and ten and eleven night stays are now proving particular popular.”Rob Thompson
Director of Planning, Thomas Cook Airlines
Speaking exclusively to Routesonline at the formal announcement of the new services at Newcastle International Airport this week, Rob Thompson, Director of Planning, Thomas Cook Airlines said: “Newcastle International is a great partner for us and we’re extremely pleased that we’re able to offer an increased schedule for both our flight-only and holiday customers. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with the airport for many successful years and we’re very excited about developing our partnership even further.”
The network changes at Newcastle are part of a general growth across many of the airline’s UK regional airports as it adapts to passenger demand and the move away from the traditional seven and 14 night stays to more popular ten or eleven night breaks or the ability to tailor the package to individual travel needs.
“Package holidays have always been important to us and will continue to be, but we are moving away and designing our flight programmes to be more adaptable. Years ago people largely went for seven or 14 night holidays but over time more people have wanted greater flexibility and ten and eleven night stays are now proving particular popular,” added Thompson. To support this strategy and provide additional flight options during the current summer 2013 schedule Thomas Cook agreed to acquire a number of seats from low-fare carrier easyJet which will then incorporated with holiday packages.
Dalaman is a popular destination from the North East of England and alongside Thomas Cook Airlines is served by Jet2.com and Thomson, supporting holiday packages for Jet2holidays, Just Sunshine, Olympic Holidays, Thomson. “Dalaman is one of the most popular destinations from across our UK bases so it was logical to boost our operation at Newcastle when we are seeing strong demand,” said Thompson.
Meanwhile, Kos, a former Thomas Cook destination from Newcastle, is already served from airport during the summer with a weekly Thomson Airways flight for its own tour operator packages and for Olympic Holidays. “We have seen resurgence in popularity of Greece over the last 12 months or so we are tailoring our programme to meet the characteristics of demand,” said Thompson.
The Thomas Cook expansion is one of a couple of new route announcements expected from Newcastle International this month and follows the announcement earlier this year that Thomson and First Choice are to offer an extra 20,000 holidays from the North East facility in 2014 as part of its own UK network expansion.
As part of the continued expansion of its holiday programme from its home UK market and in particular supporting a business strategy to enable customers to fly from their local airport, Thomson Airways will be boosting frequencies across its network from Newcastle, enabling customers more choice and the ability to book a mix of seven, ten, eleven or 14 night holidays to destinations such as Costa Del Sol, Kefalonia and Rhodes, like Thomas Cook offer the flexibility rather than traditional week and fortnight options. The carrier will also be bringing its Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Newcastle to operate flights to Cancun and Orlando from July 21, 2014.
According to Thomas Cook’s Rob Thompson, there is not a one model fits all strategy for the UK market and there remain regional variations across the country. “There are certainly subtle differences between our offering in the North and South of England. More traditional destinations remain more popular in the North of England than further South. As you move up and down the country you see changes in popularity of certain routes,” he explained.
For summer 2014 it will continue to base three aircraft at Newcastle – two of its own 757-200s and an A320 from a partner carrier. This year the airline has had capacity from Baltic carrier SmartLynx Airlines but no decision has been made on the source of equipment for 2014. “We will take this aircraft on a damp lease, meaning that the aircraft will be flown by our partner but we always crew them with our own cabin crew. That is important for us as we want to ensure the service is the standard we require. The feedback we get from customers on our crews is incredibly good and is not something we would want to compromise on,” said Thompson.
““Our aim is to be the UK’s most welcoming airport. As part of this aim we want to provide an improved airport, to encourage new routes and attract new customers. To do this we need to develop additional infrastructure, such as improvements to the terminal, better car parking and access, and the development of the southside, which will help diversify the airport business and secure new income sources.”Dave Laws
Chief Executive Officer, Newcastle International Airport
It has been a busy summer for Newcastle, which has just unveiled its development plans for the coming decades. The masterplan highlights the ambitions of the North East’s main airport up to 2030 and outlines the significant economic benefits the airport will deliver to the region. The airport delivered £646 million to the regional economy in 2012, and by 2030 it is estimated that this figure will grow substantially to up to £1.3 billion.
The launch marks the beginning of a major consultation process with the local community as the airport gathers the views of neighbours and other key stakeholders on future developments and the impacts that these might have.
“Our aim is to be the UK’s most welcoming airport,” Dave Laws, Chief Executive of Newcastle International Airport told Routesonline this week. “As part of this aim we want to provide an improved airport, to encourage new routes and attract new customers. To do this we need to develop additional infrastructure, such as improvements to the terminal, better car parking and access, and the development of the southside, which will help diversify the airport business and secure new income sources.”