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Airport plan is aiming high

Airport chiefs in Londonderry are currently locked in talks aimed at bringing new European routes to the city's airport.

Leading figures said they are speaking with between eight and 10 airlines and tour operators regarding developing links to Europe.

They are hopeful the projected increase in visitors during Derry's UK City of Culture year will help sway Ryanair and other aviation chiefs to set up new routes from City of Derry Airport.

Airport boss Damien Tierney said the long-term objective was to phase in new flights to cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Barcelona and Paris.

As a result of talks with Falcon Holidays, new weekly flights direct from Derry to Majorca and a new route to Lanzarote for next summer were confirmed yesterday.

City of Derry bucked the global aviation trend in March by announcing that the previous 12 months had been its second busiest year ever.

Between April 2011 and March 2012 passenger numbers jumped by 20% on the previous year to 415,000.

However, numbers for the current year may take a dip due to the loss of Manchester and Dublin routes.

"All our mainland UK routes and the summer routes are performing very, very well with good load factors and hopefully that will continue on into the winter," Mr Tierney said.

"We are working closely with the City of Culture organisers to try and determine the details of the Culture programme, which won't be finalised until September.

"What airlines are looking for is to find out what the events are, and where they expect people to come here from.

"We might have additional capacity for some routes as a result of that.

"As soon as we get the programme finalised, we will pass the information on to airlines," he added.