City of Derry Airport subsidy plea as Ryanair axes routes
There is shock and disappointment in Londonderry after Ryanair axed its flights from City of Derry Airport (CoDA) to London Standsted and Faro.
The routes will close next April. The airline also slashed the number of flights to Liverpool from five times a week to twice weekly, leaving only the Glasgow route unscathed by the cuts.
The DUP slammed the move, saying the connection to London is vital for the economy of the North West and must be secured.
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell said: "For many years it has been the case that a local airport which most people in the North West support, must diversify.
"It is absolutely critical now that a London route is reinstated and airlines apart from Ryanair are secured for other routes."
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood called on the Executive to take action to subsidise the loss-making Derry airport.
He said: "Businesses in Derry are already operating in an extremely difficult trading environment. Ryanair's announcement will come as a bitter blow to them as they try to create jobs in a market that depends on effective transport infrastructure.
"The Executive put up £9m to save the route between New York and Belfast and the people of Derry deserve no less."
CoDA chairman Roy Devine said he was optimistic about securing a new operator for the route to London, and moves are under way to secure a Public Service Obligation (PSO) commitment from the Government that a direct route be operated between Derry and London.
This could keep the London route open using a subvention.
Derry and Strabane Council chief executive John Kelpie said: "We are currently involved in discussions with the Department for Transport about this and remain confident that we meet the criteria."
Currently, council ratepayers cover the £2.14m annual running costs of the airport. Mr Kelpie said the council does not expect the cuts will have an immediate impact on the amount of subvention it hands over to the airport.
Staff have been told their jobs are safe in the meantime.
Alan Law from Nipsa said staff were shocked at the devastating news. "The discussion with Mr Kelpie and Mr Devine was very positive and I wish them well in their continued efforts to secure replacement carriers for the services withdrawn," he said.
"The impact of Air Passenger Duty continues to disproportionately affect the airport and this remains a huge issue which local politicians need to grasp. "
Chief Executive of Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, Sinead McLaughin, said: "Despite its cost to the ratepayer, the airport has consistently generated much more in terms of Gross Value Added to the region than it costs."