UK tour operators Thomson and First Choice have expanded their summer 2015 offering and will be increasing capacity at UK regional airports through the introduction of 29 new routes including new flights to Dubrovnik and Split in Croatia, Marrakech in Morocco and Antalya in Turkey, as well as the addition of further weekly flights for existing routes across the regions.
Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester airports share the most new routes but the growth will see new services being added at smaller airports such as Humberside and Norwich and will spread across the UK with additional flights from Scotland and Wales too. The frequency increases will also mean that customers from the 20 regional airports served by Thomson and First Choice will also have the opportunity to choose varying durations - not just the standard seven and 14 night stays.
From next summer Thomson customers will also have the opportunity to experience the beautiful and less explored Croatian coastal region of the Dalmatian Coast, which will see Thomson launch its third Couples property in Croatia - the Adriatic Beach Hotel, served by a brand new flight to Split from Manchester. Croatia's popular Dubrovnik region will also be available from Glasgow, Bristol and Newcastle and will receive a second flight from Manchester, Gatwick and Birmingham.
At Bristol Airport, Thomson and First Choice will introduce new routes to Santorini, Greece; Pula, Croatia; Marrakech, Morocco; and Dubrovnik, Croatia. The summer 2015 plans also include the addition of further weekly flights for existing routes to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt and Heraklion, Greece and will bring the total destinations on offer from Bristol Airport to 25.
”The introduction of four new routes to Pula, Santorini, Dubrovnik and Marrakech are very welcome and provides exciting new destinations for passengers in the region to visit. Dubrovnik also adds a fly-cruise option, while additional flights to Sharm el Sheikh and Heraklion offer a wider choice with more flexible stay lengths for passengers across the South West and Wales,” said Shaun Browne, aviation director, Bristol Airport.
At Birmingham, Thomson and First Choice will add over 37,000 additional seats as it launches five new routes and expands capacity in existing markets. The tour operators will add new routes to Agadir, Morocco; Chania, Greece; Djerba, Tunisia plus Porto Santo and Sal in Cape Verde. The plans for summer 2015 also include the addition of further weekly flights for existing routes to Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kefalonia, Greece; Antalya, Turkey and Paphos, Cyprus bringing the total destinations on offer from Birmingham Airport to 46.
“Thomson is our largest tour operator so we’re extremely pleased to see it expanding its programme further from Birmingham in 2015. These five new routes and extra capacity on popular sun destinations is great news for travellers as it means more choice and availability for those wanting to fly from Birmingham with this leading airline,” said William Pearson, aviation development director, Birmingham Airport.
At Manchester Airport Thomson and First Choice will add to its existing offering by introducing three new routes in summer 2015 to Alghero, Italy; Djerba, Tunisia; Split, Croatia, while it will be extending its current winter route to La Palma in the Canaries into the summer schedule for the first time.
Alongside the growth at Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester, the network growth for summer 2015 spreads around a number of regional points across England and Wales. Thomson and First Choice will re-introduce a route from Cardiff Airport to Antalya, Turkey, while a new link to Mahon, Menorca and a further weekly flight on its existing route to Dalaman, Turkey will be introduced from Norwich Airport.
“Our objective is to provide an ever increasing range of top quality holiday destinations and product to the holidaymakers in our region. Working closely with Thomson and First Choice, we are making good progress in achieving this,” said Andrew Bell, chief executive officer, Norwich International Airport.
Nearby, Thomson and First Choice will also resurrect direct services between Humberside Airport in Lincolnshire and Palma in Majorca. The airline last served the route three years ago but connectivity has been maintained over the subsequent period by independent company Jetxtra, which operates as a virtual airline.
“We are delighted that one of the UK’s most popular holiday specialists, Thomson, has decided to return to the airport after a three year absence. Our customers have been asking for more services from their local airport and we know that the first route announced, Palma in Majorca, is in great demand with local holiday-makers,” said Paul Litten, commercial director, Humberside Airport.
Meanwhile, at Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield, Thomson and First Choice will be increasing capacity by 10,000 departing seats through the introduction of two new routes during summer 2015 with weekly flights to Antalya in Turkey and the Greek island of Zante from May 2015. The two new routes for Thomson from South Yorkshire, will take the total amount of destinations provided by Thomson and First Choice from the airport to 20.
Thomson and First Choice have also added a second flight a week to the Tunisian destination of Enfidha due to the popularity of the route from Doncaster Sheffield Airport in recent years. “The airline continues to show magnificent support for the airport, which is great news for the region. Flights to Antalya and Zante will be new destinations for summer 2015 from Doncaster Sheffield Airport and provide more choice for passengers,” said Chris Harcombe, head of aviation development, Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
At Newcastle, Thomson and First Choice have added a new link to Agadir in Morocco to the summer 2015 programme. "The addition of Agadir and fly-cruise flights to Dubrovnik is great news for the North-East. It is a very long time ago since we last enjoyed regular flights to Morocco while the Croatian flight allows both Mediterranean cruise and land based holidays,” said Chris Sanders, aviation development director, Newcastle International Airport.
In Scotland, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow will have additional connections in summer 2015 as the tour operators introduce five new routes, comprising Faro, Portugal from Aberdeen; Antalya, Turkey and Rhodes, Greece from Edinburgh; and Dubrovnik, Croatia and Marrakech, Morocco from Glasgow.
At the latter Thomson and First Choice will be increasing its schedule capacity by 18,000 seats, which alongside the two new destinations will see additional flights being offered to Paphos, Cyprus; Dalaman, Turkey and the Spanish Balearic island of Ibiza.
According to Francois Bourienne, commercial director, Glasgow Airport, the announcement is clear evidence of the tour operator’s willingness to respond to an increase in demand for these new destinations. “It will be the first time Marrakesh has been served from Glasgow, which is the largest Thomson and First Choice base in Scotland, and we look forward to working closely with them to ensure the success of both routes,” he said.
The move to introduce these routes is part of the UK’s largest tour operator’s strategy to ensure customers across the UK can fly from their local airport and stay at the best hotels in some of the most exciting destinations. There are also frequency increases enabling customers more choice and the ability to book a mix of seven, ten, eleven or 14 night holidays rather than the existing week and fortnight options.
“The demand for more regional routes is strong, and adding additional capacity from the 20 UK airports we serve as well as introducing 29 new routes demonstrates our commitment to getting holidaymakers to their sun spot more easily,” said Karen Switzer, director of aviation planning for Thomson and First Choice. “Expanding access to our portfolio of destinations and hotels is a key part of our overall strategy and we hope that this move will enhance the holiday experience for our customers.”