The UK government has announced in will provide £3.8 million of support under a Public Service Obligation (PSO) contract for a Londonderry to London air route, following the decision by current operator Ryanair to stop serving the air link at the end of March. It has selected UK carrier bmi regional as its preferred operator for the route following a competitive tender process by Derry City & Strabane District Council.
bmi regional will launch daily flights between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted from May 2, 2017 for a minimum two year period. It will offer two flights per day except Saturdays (when there will be one flight each way) and timed to compliment business schedules, making it easier for business travellers to do the round-trip in a single day.
The UK government will provide its funding support over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years. “The UK government has worked closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council to protect this important route to City of Derry Airport,” said Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon.
This is the first ever government backing for a PSO in Northern Ireland. The government maintains regional airport links through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which can be used to protect important regional air connections to London which may otherwise be lost.
The £3.8 million funding is a significant investment in supporting the route. Based on bmi regional using a 50-seat Embraer ERJ-145 on the route and its 13 return weekly frequencies that will equate to 1,300 seats a week, 67,600 seats a year or 135,200 seats for the full two-year funding term. With 2,704 one-way flights scheduled to operate during this period that works out as over £1,400 of support per flight, or £28 per seat.
“The North West region of Ireland is undergoing a sustained period of economic growth, and has received significant investment in new jobs and growth projects over the past 12 months. It is important for businesses that the region is well connected to the UK capital and bmi regional is proud to be bringing its quality, premium product to this route,” said Jochen Schnadt, chief commercial officer, bmi regional
“Whereas previously business travellers between Derry and London have had to stay overnight in the city, they will now be able to commute there and back in a day, saving both money and time, and hopefully resulting in continued economic growth for the Derry region,” he added.
Northern Ireland’s second city, Derry is an economic, creative and cultural hub. In 2013, it was named the UK City of Culture thanks to its winning combination of rich cultural heritage and vibrant social scene. The only completely walled city in Ireland and the UK, it is a bustling, youthful city. It is also the gateway to the wider North West and its spectacular coastline, which is regularly used for big film productions including the latest Star Wars franchise and Game of Thrones.