City of Derry Airport bosses are in talks with new London Stansted carrier BMI Regional about the potential for other routes from the Eglinton facility.
Roy Devine, chairman of City of Derry Airport (CoDA) said there may be scope in the future for new routes to Birmingham and Bristol, while discussions on other routes are continuing with different airlines.
Mr. Devine was speaking to the ‘Journal’ as BMI Regional began operating its new twice-daily Derry to London-Stansted route.
The new carrier is establishing a base in Derry, after being appointed to run the key, government-subsidised London route on the back of Ryanair pulling its Stansted service from City of Derry.
Speaking about the potential for other routes with BMI Regional, Mr. Devine said: “I think they would like to see this established; their base established here and then build out from that.
“We know where they have other bases in Great Britain. They have bases in Birmingham and in Bristol, so we would like to consider those as possible routes in the future and ask them to consider those as possible routes in the future.”
Mr. Devine advised, however, that BMI was a “cautious” operator that was thorough with its business planning.
Previously, senior CoDA representatives have also said that a new Derry to Manchester route was also one they were keen to establish and Mr. Devine confirmed that Manchester remained a ‘key target.’
“We are constantly in discussions with airlines. It’s trying to meet with them at the same time that they are trying to do something. It is just getting that timing right can be a bit of challenge,” he said.
The concentration on trying to secure more routes to Britain, on top of the new BMI Regional London service and the existing Ryanair routes to Liverpool and Glasgow, was not down to Brexit, Mr Devine maintained.
“It is just that that is where we see our purpose, to provide good connectivity within these islands,” he added.
“Dublin would be another target for us as well in the future.”
“Serving that connectivity is the primary purpose of City of Derry Airport as a smaller regional airport.
“If we can get some summer sun and some other more distant routes that would be fantastic, but our focus is really on connectivity into Great Britain and Ireland.”
In terms of summer sun routes from Derry, the eight week Palma route introduced by Thompson and First Choice for eight weeks this summer has been renewed for 2018.
“They have been very pleased with the uptake of their 2017 offering,” Mr Devine said, adding: “There are a number of other routes. The Faro route, we would consider that as a priority as well in terms of summer sun. It was very popular.”
The new London-Stansted route had been developed to cater for business users, local people on day trips and visiting friends and family as well as tourists. The big advantage of the service is it allows people to do a day’s business in London, get there by 9 am and get home by early in the evening.
“It’s a different type of service to the Ryanair service we had. It is double daily, and it’s an all inclusive service so your ticket price buys your bag up to 23 kilos and your seat. It’s a different approach BMI Regional have. “It works for them and we are delighted to see them here.
“Ryanair had a once a day service which meant that you couldn’t get back the same day as you left. That meant we were losing a lot of traffic to other airports as a result.”
Commenting on the uptake on the Stansted route, Mr. Devine said: “The response from the local travellers has been very, very positive. BMI themselves were blown away by the response from the public here and they are very positive about the performance of the route as a new route.”
The UK Government has allocated £3.8 million for the new Stansted service in the first ever government backing for a public service obligation in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, last year the Northern Ireland Executive agreed a £7m funding package to support the development of new routes and infrastructure at the council owned Eglinton airport.
The transfer of this funding will have to comply with European Union regulations. Mr. Devine said: “We are still working with the NI Executive on the modalities as to how that money could be spent and not fall foul of EU legislation. The absence of an Executive at the moment isn’t helping and we are one of many projects waiting for that to come online again to push things forward for us.”