Video: Airport boss sanguine as Ryanair takes off Faro and Stansted routes

The contracts director at the firm that manages City of Derry Airport (CoDA), Clive Coleman, says he’s confident there will be no job losses and that the local facility’s future is secure after Ryanair announced it will no longer fly from Derry to Faro and London Stansted from next April.

Ryanair announced it will no longer fly from Derry to Faro and London Stansted from next April.

City of Derry Airport. DER0414JM038

City of Derry Airport. DER0414JM038

The carrier will continue to operate five weekly services to Glasgow but will also reduce its services to Liverpool from five to two per week

Bosses at the local facility say there are no fears over the long term future of the airport and that an application for a Public Service Obligation (PSO) route to London is at an advanced stage and that they are hopeful this will be in place by next Spring.

Mr Coleman said it’s vital all stakeholders get behind the plan to secure public funding from the Department for Transport (DfT) for a replacement route to London.

“We’ve got one plan, our Plan A, because this airport is vital, nobody wants to see this airport closed, everyone wants to see this airport stay open to service the North West,” said Mr Coleman.

Roy Devine chairman CODA reading the Derry Journal's front page story on Ryanair reducing flights to City of Derry Airport at this mornings press conference. DER3716GS007

Roy Devine chairman CODA reading the Derry Journal's front page story on Ryanair reducing flights to City of Derry Airport at this mornings press conference. DER3716GS007

“So it’s critical we get support from people, from our stakeholders, we get support for the route development that’s taking place at the moment.”

Mr Coleman, who briefed staff of the developments this morning, also said he was hopeful there would ne no job losses at the airport as a result of Ryanair’s move.

“We’re hoping with all of the contingencies we’ve put in place and with Ryanair staying - the important message is that Ryanair are staying on some routes - we get the London PSO route. We’re very clear that we need the skilled workforce to service those routes.”

He said airport bosses have been planning for a potential reduction in routes by Ryanair as one of a number of potential scenarios.

RyanAir at City of Derry Airport. DER3716GS014

RyanAir at City of Derry Airport. DER3716GS014

The combined toll of Air Passenger Duty (APD), a 15 per cent fall in Sterling, Ryanair’s strategic removal of planes out of Stansted to the European continent, and competition from the Belfast to Gatwick route, eventually led to today’s announcement.

“Any commercial organisation has a risk plan in place to look at what could happen if the worst happens.

“We’ve been aware for a number of years it’s been challenging having one single airline operating all the services into this airport,” he said.

“So we’ve been working for a contingency plan and the hugely important message I want to get across is that the London route is critical to the region and it’s critical to the airport and with the support of the Department for Transport in London we’re hoping to get approval for a PSO route, which is effectively a publicly funded support mechanism for a route and we’re working through a programme now to get that in place, hopefully awarded by late January or early February so that the service can operate seamlessly when Ryanair move out from April 1.”

Mr Roy Devine, Chair of City of Derry Airport Operations Ltd. said: “This reduced Ryanair programme for Summer 2017 is clearly disappointing news for the airport and all those wishing to travel with Ryanair from CoDA to London Stansted or to Faro from 2017 onward.”

He added: “The Airport Board and management have been anticipating changes to the Ryanair services from Derry following the decision by Ryanair in 2015 to commence services from Belfast International Airport and had commenced planning at that time for such an outcome.”

He said the Airport Board was actively engaging with the Northern Ireland Executive and had met with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness in recent months to secure new carriers and new routes to assist with securing the airport’s future.

An announcement is expected on those discussions in the days and weeks ahead.

Mr Devine and Mr Coleman said the airport has been engaging with all regional carriers and that the replacement PSO route to London could be to any of London’s six airports, although due to its nature as a long haul hub, Heathrow is an unlikely destination from next April.

Mr Coleman said an application has already been made to the DfT in London for the PSO route, and that an application for approval is likely to be made to the European Commission in October to ensure there is no breach of state-aid rules.

After that there will be the tender process with, it’s hoped, the new route in place next Spring.

Mr Coleman said he was confident the new route would qualify for support under the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which already subsidises routes from peripheral Dundee and Newquay to London.

Derry City and Strabane District Council boss John Kelpie said the local authority is committed to the future of the airport.

He said that the Council’s subvention of the airport had been recently reduced from £3m to £2m and that he believes Ryanair’s announcement represents an opportunity for City of Derry Airport.

“CoDA and Council have been working for some time preparing the groundwork for a PSO route in the event that the Derry to London service was concluded.

“On receipt of notice from Ryanair that they will no longer operate the route commercially, we were able to proceed with the process of applying to operate a PSO route from the Airport to a London airport.”

He said: “The PSO, if successful, will allow us to retain that important link with London and provide a route that will offer timings that are conveniently scheduled for a full working day at either destination.”