City of Derry Airport chief welcomes extension of London flights subsidy
The decision to extend a subsidy for direct flights between London and Londonderry is "crucial" to the Northern Irish airport's future, its chairman has said.
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Flybmi's 49-seat daily round trip from City of Derry Airport to London Stansted has been backed by the Department for Transport in London and Derry & Strabane District Council since May 2017.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed yesterday that the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland and the UK Government would subsidise the 13 weekly rotations until May 2021.
Mr Grayling said the Government's commitment "strengthens the Union, protects choice and boosts trade and travel opportunities".
City of Derry Airport chairman Albert Harrison added: "The London route is a key element to the sustainability of the airport and provides essential daily connectivity to London for our customers.
"Maintaining frequent and conveniently scheduled air services to London is vitally important for the development of the north-west city region and for the development of our regional economy and the social development of our region."
Brian McGrath, president of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, said that many businesses across the north-west relied upon the flights to ensure connectivity with London, making doing business easier and more efficient.
"This is another example of the north-west being open for business and emphasises that the region is an important gateway," he stressed. "Support from the UK Government for the region is essential during this crucial time with the uncertainty of Brexit and the threat of a no-deal (exit from the EU).
"I know many businesses across the north-west will benefit hugely from the continuation of this subsidy."
Mr McGrath also highlighted that the air link would continue to help boost the tourism industry in the region.
John Boyle, the mayor of Derry and Strabane District Council, said the timing of the flights, which are scheduled to allow a full working day at either destination, was one of the air link's main attractions.
Speaking yesterday, Transport Secretary Mr Grayling said the announcement would be welcomed by businesses in the north of Northern Ireland "because corporate trips to and from London within a day will remain a possibility".
He added: "The extension will continue to provide easy access for tourists to visit the spectacular causeway coast, as well as spectators attending the 148th Open golf championship at Royal Portrush this summer."