EasyJet grounding leaves London as Northern Ireland's only active commercial air link

EasyJet has grounded all planes, leaving Belfast International airport without any commercial flights. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker
Ryan McAleer

EASYJET’S decision to ground its entire fleet yesterday has left London as the north’s only active commercial air link.

The budget carrier said parking 344 of its planes "removes significant cost" as the aviation industry struggles to cope with a collapse in demand caused by the outbreak of coronavirus.

It leaves Belfast International Airport without any commercial flights and Heathrow and London Southend as the only remaining commercial routes.

Ryanair, Jet2 and Eastern Airways have already ceased operating their air routes in Northern Ireland.

Loganair has ceased operations at Belfast City Airport, but was continuing to operate its public service obligation route between City of Derry Airport and London Southend as of Monday evening.

A spokesperson for City of Derry Airport said last night: “We remain in discussions with local and UK government on the sustainability and frequency of the Loganair London service.”

The Scottish airline has said it expects to ask the UK Government for a bailout to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

British Airways and Aer Lingus are continuing with a reduced version of their shared Belfast City Airport to Heathrow route.

EasyJet yesterday flew seven of its aircraft based at Aldergrove to the north of England to be stored.

The carrier said on Monday that it had reached an agreement with the Unite union on furlough arrangements for its cabin crew.

The deal will be effective from Wednesday for a two-month period and means cabin crew will be paid 80 per cent of their average pay through the UK Government job retention scheme.

In a statement yesterday, Belfast International Airport said it will remain open and operational as the north’s main airport for emergency medical and cargo operations.

“We are still working hard to ensure that vital supplies continue to arrive daily so we can help those who need it most,” said a spokesperson.

“We will continue to provide as much help as we can for staff on the front line and recognise the important work they are doing to keep Northern Ireland supplied with vital goods during this unprecedented crisis.

“We are in close contact with all of our airline partners, government officials and the public health agency and are planning to recommence passenger flights as soon as practicably possible to do so.”

The disappearance of air links is expected to place extra demand on passenger ferries.

Stena Line confirmed yesterday that it will continue operations for freight and travel customers with extra precautions in place. The ferry operator said all ferries will continue to run on schedule, but some services will have restrictions on passenger numbers.

Stena Line said it will waive fees to amend all travel bookings until April 30.

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