Business

Fresh financial bail-out to keep City of Derry Airport operational until March

City of Derry Airport has been given its second financial bail out since the start of the pandemic. 

EMERGENCY public funding for City of Derry Airport will keep it operational until March 2021, it’s chair has said.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon announced the £1.23 million package on Thursday.

The short-term grant is based on 50 per cent of the airport’s deficit for the current financial year.

It comes six months after the Executive and the Department for Transport in London agreed to a £5.7m package to help keep City of Derry and Belfast City airports open during the pandemic.

The north’s third and largest airport, Belfast International, last week announced it will be forced to close its terminal for the first time on selected days during November, in response to key airlines reducing their operations.

Nichola Mallon said yesterday that “urgent consideration” is being given by the Executive to provide support for both Belfast International and Belfast City airports.

“I recognise the vital role that City of Derry Airport plays as a gateway to the north west,” said the minister.

“While my powers in relation to airports are limited, I have been working alongside my Executive colleagues to ensure that the City of Derry Airport is supported to remain open at this time of economic challenge.”

Albert Harrison, who chairs the City of Derry Airport Board, said the £1.23m followed weeks of negotiations between the airport and government.

He said the financial support will secure jobs retain critical connectivity during the ongoing difficulties facing the aviation industry.

But the airport’s relief could be short-lived.

A UK Government subsidy for Loganair’s public service obligation (PSO) route between Derry and London Stansted is due to be cut in half in April 2021.

Derry City and Strabane District Council, which owns the airport, has already said it will not have the resources to make up the shortfall.

The local authority’s chief executive John Kelpie, said yesterday that the airport and council are continuing discussions with the Executive in relation to medium to long-term financial support.

Airport manager Steve Frazer said the funding will provide continued stability during a difficult economic period.

“The announcement symbolises the importance with which central government recognises the important role played by CoDA towards connectivity and regional development in this region and we are delighted that they are supporting us as we continue to deal with the pandemic, plan for the recovery phase and future investment.”

Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said the airport remains critical to the economic development of Derry city and the north west region.

“It provides a vital transport link for investors and businesses seeking to set up in this part of the island and it sends a very clear message that Derry is open for business,” he said.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Cllr Brian Tierney said: “This funding will provide some short-term stability during this difficult economic period and allow routes to continue to operate for those who are needing to travel, as well as allow for the continuation of important connectivity and linkages between the North West City region of Ireland and London.”

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