Government funding worth £5.7m announced to secure flights at Belfast City and City of Derry airports
A SUPPORT package worth £5.7 million has been announced to secure flights at Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport.
The subsidy, jointly funded by the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government, will maintain Aer Lingus and Loganair routes to Heathrow and London Southend.
The routes are the only remaining commercial air links to Northern Ireland still operating during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Both airports will also be given funding to provide ground services for the flights.
All commercial flights at Belfast International Airport remain grounded. Earlier this week, the airport’s managing director Graham Keddie said it is staying open at a cost of £60,000 per day.
The airport continues to operate a busy airfreight schedule.
Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the funding was necessary to facilitate essential travel, including people who have to travel for urgent medical care.
“This assistance will provide financial aid to both City of Derry Airport and Belfast City Airport to help with their operating costs when so much of their business has been affected. Finance is also being made available to keep the remaining flights operating out of those airports.
"This is a unique payment that will offer much-needed support in the short term during the crisis."
Economy Minister Diane Dodds and Finance Minister Conor Murphy said the need to maintain air connectivity remains “critical”.
Both ministers said they had engaged with the Treasury and Department of Transport in London to secure the funding package.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "Maintaining air links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is vital.
"We must ensure that critical workers can continue to fly over the Irish Sea and today's investment in these lifeline services guarantees that."
Last week the UK Government announced a £17 million package to safeguard sea routes between Britain and Northern Ireland.