UK low-fare regional carrier, Flybe has agreed a deal with Peel Group to launch jet services on key business and leisure routes from Doncaster Sheffield Airport. The airline will base two 118-seat Embraer 195s at the airport from the end of March 2016 to serve eight new destinations across mainland Europe, details of which will be revealed on November 10, 2015 when it opens reservations for its summer 2016 schedule.
This milestone announcement, the biggest of its kind since the Yorkshire airport opened its doors in 2005, will boost traffic with an additional 500,000 seats on offer from the facility. Doncaster Sheffield is already among the fastest growing airports in the UK outside London and will now benefit from Flybe delivering up to 44 new flight departures per week, a 70 per cent increase in departures.
“This is a transformational announcement which brings massively enhanced connectivity to the Sheffield City Region’s airport,” said Steve Gill, Managing Director, Doncaster Sheffield Airport. “These two new aircraft will make available half a million new flight seats and is expected to grow our passenger traffic by around 30 per cent.”
Flybe has served the Doncaster Sheffield market for almost ten years having first introduced flights in October 2006 with a service to Belfast City. A link to Jersey was introduced in summer 2008 and is Flybe’s only current offering from the facility, with a summer service.
"We are delighted to have reached this agreement to begin enhancing connectivity for the people of South Yorkshire from Doncaster Sheffield Airport,” said Saad Hammad, Chief Executive Officer, Flybe. “Sheffield is the UK’s fourth largest city and is a market that is currently underserved to key destinations.”
The news comes just months before the airport becomes significantly more accessible for passengers living within the Sheffield City Region, when journey times to the airport are reduced by 20 minutes following the opening of the £58 million motorway link road (FARRRS). Investment in the road has been delivered through both public and private sector funding and is set to open in early 2016, ahead of the new Flybe services commencing.
The partnership with Peel Group sees homes for another two of Flybe’s stored Embraer E195 jets. As part of an internal network study, named ‘Project Blackbird’, Flybe has been looking to find a productive home for its surplus E195 aircraft. Of its original fleet of fourteen legacy E195s, five were handed back to lessors; two are based at Cardiff Airport under a long-term agreement; one aircraft will replace a Q400 aircraft at Newquay under a redefined Public Service Obligation (PSO) agreement with Cornwall Council to satisfy increased demand on the Newquay-London Gatwick route. Elsewhere, three aircraft will operate at Birmingham and Manchester Airports. Two of these will provide additional capacity on high load factor routes and the third E195 will provide Ejet standby cover across Flybe's network.
The last of these will aupport growth at Norwich Airport where Flybe has agreed with UK regional airport operator, Regional & City Airports (RCA) to base one aircraft in East Anglia. The low-fare airline will introduce new year-round scheduled holiday flights from Norwich to Alicante and Malaga from March 2016, with the addition of Geneva expected later in 2016.
Schedule data from OAG shows Flybe this year has offered regular flights from 37 airports across the UK both under its own flying and franchise partners Loganair and Stobart Air. Bournemouth was a new market for the carrier this year (it last served the South Coast airport in 2010), while operations have also significantly grown at both London City and London Stansted, where it started flying again from the end of 2014, bringing capacity growth from the UK in 2015 for the first time in three years.
A closer look at the carrier’s schedule over the past ten years shows how it is modified its UK network over the period to meet changing passenger demand and developments to the carrier’s business strategy. In 2005 Belfast City and Southampton were the largest points in its UK network by departure capacity, but both have now been overtaken by Birmingham and Manchester.