The Secretary of State James Brokenshire has revealed that BMI Regional will take over the Derry to Stansted route following the government’s pledge of £3.8m.
Brokenshire was speaking ahead of an official announcement from the airport and Derry City & Strabane District Council expected on Thursday morning.
It is understood that Councillors were called to a confidential meeting on Wednesday evening and told that the new airline carrier had been selected to replace the current Ryanair Derry to Stansted service, which ends next month.
In a statement, the UK government said: “BMI Regional has been chosen as the preferred operator for the route between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted, following a competitive tender process by Derry City & Strabane District Council.
“Flights will begin on Sunday 26 March and the government will fund the route over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years.”
The new service will include two return flights each day, except for Saturdays which will have one flight each way.
NI Secretary of State Brokenshire MP said:
“The UK Government has worked closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council to protect this important route to City of Derry Airport.
“£3.8 million UK Government funding will allow 13 return flights to connect Londonderry to London every week.
“The new service will allow business passengers to get to central London and complete a full day’s work before returning home.”
The Derry to London route marks the first ever UK government backing for a public service obligation (PSO) in Northern Ireland.
The UK 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 NI Assembly meanwhile has also pledged millions to the airport to develop its facilities at Eglinton and try to attract new routes.