Derry’s direct air link to London is to switch airports from Stansted to Southend, it’s been confirmed.
The Department of Transport says the new Loganair service will operate 26 flights per week between Derry and Southend.
Loganair currently runs the existing service between City of Derry Airport and Stansted.
It’s understood the government-subsidised service will switch airports on October 27.
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, says the new Derry-Southend route - which will fly 49-seater aircraft - will boost trade and travel opportunities and secure jobs.
“I’m backing this route because I understand just how important these daily direct flights linking London and Northern Ireland are,” he added. “Whether it brings businesses together or reunites loved ones, it will enhance connections across the UK.”
The public service obligation (PSO) air route, says Mr Shapps, ensures passengers can travel from Derry to London and back, conducting a full day of business without the need for an overnight stay.
He says airports like City of Derry play an important role in delivering economic and international connections that help passengers travel further and link businesses to global trade partners.
The government’s subsidising of the route, he says, will help people do business, visit family and go on holiday.
Jonathan Hinkles, managing director, Loganair, says the company is delighted to secure the new PSO route between Derry and London.
He added: “London Southend is a highly convenient entry point to England’s capital and the South East, serviced by its own dedicated train station only 100 steps away from the airport terminal.”
“This latest phase of partnership between Loganair and London Southend Airport will significantly enhance air connectivity in Northern Ireland’s North West, generating lasting benefits for both the region’s economy and our customers.”
Glyn Jones, CEO of Stobart Aviation, which owns and operates Southend Airport, says the Derry-London route is vital for both tourism and business.
“New early and late trains, along with up to six services an hour to London Liverpool Street in 52 minutes, bring Derry and London closer than ever and show just why we are fast becoming the capital’s quickest and easiest airport to use,” he said.
Clive Coleman, of City of Derry Airport, said he was delighted that the link between Derry and London was to continue.
“It is fantastic news that Loganair has been appointed to operate the PSO to London Southend, offering adequate capacity at competitive fares and timings that are conveniently scheduled for a full working day at either destination.”
Derry’s MP Elisha McCallion has welcomed the announcement of funding for the Derry to London air route.
She said: “This route will be funded by the British government and the block grant in the North so it will come at no additional cost to local ratepayers.
“I, along with others, lobbied the British government and the civil service to fund this route and I am glad it has come to fruition.
“This route will improve connectivity between Derry and London and will help the local business community, students and the tourism sector.”
Southend Airport is located approximately 36 miles (58 km) from the centre of London and is connected to the capital via regular bus and rail services.
Among the airlines operating from Southend are Ryanair, Easyjet, Loganair and Flybe.
Destinations from the airport include Barcelona, Prague, Dubrovnik, Bilbao and Bucharaest (beginning in November).
Its busiest routes include Amsterdam, Dublin and Alicante.