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Belgian regional carrier, VLM Airlines, is continuing its European regional network growth with the launch of two routes from Waterford Airport in south east Ireland with the return of regular links to Birmingham and London Luton Airport using its Fokker 50 turboprops.
The link to London Luton will operate twice daily Monday to Friday and daily at weekends from April 27, 2015 to support business and leisure demand and will be complemented by a four times weekly link to Birmingham. Various Waterford-London services have operated since 1985, while the Waterford-Birmingham market has seen flights from Flybe for the past three years.
“We’re very confident that there is a sustainable demand for reliable and convenient direct air services between the southeast of Ireland and London and Birmingham,” said Arthur White, chief executive officer, VLM Airlines.
“Direct air services into the UK are obviously very important to Waterford and the southeast region from a social and economic perspective. We will be working hard to promote the route for outbound and inbound passengers to Waterford and believe passengers will respond positively,” he added.
The Waterford – London Luton market has been served for many years by Irish regional carrier Aer Arann, but from June 2012 was transferred to being operated under the Aer Lingus Regional brand alongside a Waterford-London Southend route. Both routes were closed from January 2013. The Waterford-Birmingham link was served by Aer Arann between May 2007 and November 2011 and Flybe resumed service from March 2012, but will suspend its operations from the end of this month.
“We are delighted to have VLM Airlines coming on board to operate the Waterford-London Luton route, and that they will also continue the very successful Birmingham service,” said Desmond O’Flynn, chief executive officer, Waterford Airport.
“The load factors on our UK services have always been healthy and there’s every reason for optimism. We have always enjoyed tremendous support from business and leisure passengers in our catchment area and we look forward to that continuing when these service commence in late April,” he added.
Air connectivity is hugely important to Waterford and the surrounding southeast region. This has been underlined time and again by inward investment and economic development agencies. These new services will be a key driver for incoming tourists from the UK, especially at a time when the Eurozone is particularly attractive to UK travellers.
VLM Airlines will be the fourth new airline to start operating from London Luton this year and Waterford will be the 12th new route from the airport in 2015. The airport is in a growth phase with record breaking passenger demand. This growth is being met by a £100million transformation project that will increase annual capacity from 12 million to 18 million passengers.
“We work continuously to expand the Airport’s route network to ensure passengers have a great choice of destinations and four new airlines and an additional 12 routes for 2015 is testament to that. We are confident in the demand for services to Waterford and looking forward to re-establishing the link between London Luton and the south east of Ireland,” said Simon Harley, business development manager, London Luton Airport.
VLM Airlines relaunched scheduled services at the end of January with a link between Antwerp and Geneva. It has recently announced plans to add new flights to Hamburg in Germany from Antwerp and Rotterdam in the Netherlands and from Liege to Avignon and Nice in France and Bologna and Venice in Italy, from May 1, 2015.