'Hip hip Howay' as Belfast-Newcastle flight is launched
REGIONAL airline Eastern Airways will start operating a daily direct service from George Best Belfast City Airport to Newcastle from September 1 - coinciding with students heading to universities in the north east of England and soon after the start of the new Premier League season.
It's an extension of the service Eastern began in March when it started its first ever scheduled services from Belfast City by securing the future of the Isle of Man link with Northern Ireland following the liquidation of Citywing.
Eastern - which is part of the £1 billion turnover Bristow Aviation Holdings Ltd - says its fares will start at £59 including taxes and charges.
And it insists it will provide not only a convenient link to the busy commercial centre of Newcastle, but be a gateway to the rest of the north east including Northumberland, Sunderland and Teesside.
Its service offers an alternative to the easyJet link to Newcastle from the International Airport.
Last month the City Airport's largest operator Flybe entered into a partnership with Eastern Airways with the franchise agreement starting at the end of October.
"This partnership with Flybe will also offer greater connectivity on our Belfast City services from the Isle of Man and Newcastle,” Eastern Airways' head of commercial Mathew Herzberg said.
Katy Best, commercial and marketing director at the City Airport, said Eastern Airways has made a hugely positive impact on the Northern Ireland market since entering in March with its Isle of Man service.
"We are delighted Eastern has recognised the market's potential through the introduction of this flight to Newcastle," she said.
Its comes after Aer Lingus revealed last week that it was axing flights from Belfast City to Alicante and Majorca in September, prompting calls from the NI Consumer Council to ensure passengers receive their full rights.
Following discussions with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) the Consumer Council has urged Aer Lingus to ensure passengers affected by the cancellations are offered the option of flying via Belfast, even if it is via a different airline.
Aer Lingus initially said it was only offering affected passengers flights to and from Dublin. But according to the CAA, they have a statutory obligation that they offer a re-route under comparable transport conditions, which includes flights from Belfast on other airlines.
Meanwhile Belfast International Airport has recorded its 24th month of double-digital passenger growth on the back of the success of its core airlines, particularly relative newcomer Ryanair along with the long-established easyJet.
Last month, 565,862 passengers used the airport, 14.5 per cent up on the same month last year, while more than 501,000 more passengers were recorded in the first six months of the year, bringing the total to 2.8 million or a growth rate of close to 22 per cent.
Coupled with the passenger numbers growth, 250 new jobs have been created at Aldergrove so far this year, and it it well on target to achieve a record year and surpass 5.75 million passengers from 2016.
The International Airport's managing director Graham Keddie hailed the strong results as a "remarkable achievement".
He said: “We're having our busiest ever summer season and strong monthly growth is being achieved. Twenty-four months of unbroken, consecutive double-digit growth is a remarkable achievement.
"It is a tremendous milestone, and more of the same is on the way. All of our airlines are reporting significant and consistent passenger loads and feel more than justified for their decisions to increase capacity.
“We've seen significant private investment in facilities by food and beverage providers and airside retailers, and that, too, will continue as they expand facilities. In the first six months of 2017, we've seen 250 new jobs created on the site, and hundreds more will be added as we continue our growth trajectory," he added.