‘Successful’ Derry-Manchester flight axed by Flybe

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Flights from City of Derry Airport to Manchester have been axed despite “performing very well.”

Airline Flybe has confirmed that it has pulled out of the Derry airport after only a year of operations.

Flybe’s route from the airport, introduced in May 2011, has been removed from the airline’s summer schedule for this year.

Between May and September 2011, it had been operating five days a week between the two hubs.

Flybe’s introduction of a new route from Derry was heralded as a vote of confidence in the local airport ahead of City of Culture 2013.

In a statement this week, Flybe confirmed that the arrangement was not deemed viable enough to repeat.

However, City of Derry Airport’s Managing Director, Damien Tierney, says the route had been performing “very well and was successful.”

“The airport had various discussions with Flybe over the winter to see if a similar service could be introduced for summer 2012,” he revealed.

“Unfortunately, Flybe were unwilling to put a service on for this summer due to a number factors outside of the control of City of Derry Airport.

“Flybe have substantially changed their operating model which has involved a move to European based flights in Finland and to contracting out their aircraft and crew to other European carriers. This has substantially reduced Flybe’s capacity for operations in the UK.”

Mr. Tierney explained that, for a number of reasons, the climate for new route start-ups is at its most difficult for 30 years.

In spite of this, says Mr. Tierney, City of Derry Airport has just had its busiest year since 2007-08 with 412,000 passengers - an increase of 20% over the previous year.

“We expect summer 2012 to be as busy as 2011 with up to 40,000 passengers a month using the airport in the peak months of July and August,” he added.

“Growth in 2012 may be difficult... however we hope to consolidate our existing routes and push ahead for growth in 2013.”

The airport, he says, has invested “significant resources” to ongoing route development.

“We are in discussions with five to ten airlines at any given time to attract and grow new routes.

“Of course, we have the added impetus of City of Culture for next year and we are in discussions with existing and potential new carriers in relation to extra capacity for 2013.”