City of Derry Airport is attempting to secure an airline that will deliver both the London service and a new Manchester route, following the shock announcement that Flybmi has gone into administration.
Clive Coleman, Contracts Director with City of Derry Airport, said they have been raising the potential second Manchester route during discussions with a number of airlines who have already expressed an interest in taking on the subsidised Stansted route.
It has now emerged that several airlines including Scottish airline Loganair, which currently operates the Derry to Glasgow service, are interested in operating the Public Service Obligation (Stansted) route.
Flybmi went into administration just weeks after representatives from the company travelled to Derry and announced that they were planning a new Derry to Manchester route to take-off in the Spring.
Mr. Coleman said that while the news of Flybmi’s demise came as a bolt out of the blue last Saturday evening, “we are hoping that whoever gets the Public Service Obligation Stansted route will also do the Manchester route.”
“It is something we are raising in our discussions but, obviously, the key thing to do is get the London route back up and running,” he maintained.
Mr Coleman said there were no immediate implications for staff at CoDA, some of whom have opted to take holidays this week to facilitate the fact that the airport will be less busy.
Gareth Scott, Regional Officer for Unite, which represents some staff, said unions were to meet airport management yesterday. “Safeguarding of this service, the airport’s future and the jobs of our members will be a paramount concern,” he said.
A recently announced £2m government subsidy for the Derry to Stansted route was not paid to Flybmi before it went into administration, Mr Coleman confirmed.
The UK Department of Transport has been hosting emergency conference calls with City of Derry Airport and local council officials since the shock announcement on Saturday night, with efforts ongoing to find a replacement carrier for the route.
The Flybmi announcement came just days after the Department of Transport announced a second, £2m Public Service Obligation subsidy package to keep the London (Stansted) route going from this year up until the Spring of 2021.
Flybmi bosses have singled out problems associated with Brexit as a deciding factor in its fate, as all flights were grounded on Saturday evening. In a statement a spokesperson cited spikes in fuel and carbon costs as factors adding: “Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe”
Clive Coleman said the Flybmi announcement presented “a big challenge to Derry” but said that they were hoping to be in a position to name a successor within days.
“Stansted is the key route and we have been approached by the number of other airlines wanting to operate the route. We will evaluate these proposals very quickly and award that, hopefully, over the next few days,” he added.
Mr Coleman confirmed that the current discussions involve a mixture of different airlines in terms of existing operators and those who currently do not have a service to Derry.
The President of Derry’s Chamber of Chamber of Commerce, Brian McGrath described the Flybmi news as “terribly disappointing.”
He said: “The Derry to Stansted link is an incredibly important one for connecting those who live here in the North West to London. The loss of this will also be very damaging to businesses in the region who rely on this flight.”
Passengers who booked flights directly with the airline are advised to contact their credit card issuer, travel agent or insurer to check if they are eligible for a refund.