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Ryanair confirms return to Derry with new Manchester link

Ryanair will launch a new City of Derry to Manchester service on December 1. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire.

RYANAIR has confirmed it will return to City of Derry Airport this winter, just seven weeks after announcing its withdrawal from Northern Ireland, blaming the British government for not reducing air passenger duty (APD).

The budget carrier is due to cease operating from Belfast International Airport on October 30.

There’s still no sign of a return to either Aldergrove or Belfast City Airport in the New Year, but the Irish airline will be back in Derry less than 12 months after pulling its services to Liverpool and Edinburgh.

While Ryanair has cited APD as justification for reducing its services here, it’s understood the decision to cut its flights between the north and Britain was more to do with a Brexit-linked row with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) over the way it registers its aircraft.

Scottish carrier Loganair subsequently stepped in at City of Derry Airport with new routes to Liverpool and Glasgow.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Ryanair linked its decision to return to Derry to the delivery of 55 new Boeing 737-8200 aircraft this winter.

But the airline isn’t giving up on its long-running objection to APD, and has once again called on the UK Government to “scrap or suspend APD to allow airlines to quickly recover connectivity, jobs and tourism in the aftermath of the pandemic”.

Ryanair said APD makes UK airports less competitive than their European counterparts.

Aviation analyst Sean Moulton said: “UK APD is currently £13 for short haul economy passengers and is placed on all departing passengers.

“Therefore, for a return journey, the UK domestic market would be £26 in APD whereas UK - Europe would be just £13.”

The UK announced a review of APD in March 2021, but there’s no sign yet of any major change in approach.

The managing director at City of Derry, Steve Frazer, has backed Ryanair on the APD issue.

He said while the carrier’s return to the airport is good news, the removal of APD is needed to boost connectivity further.

“As we seek to further improve the connectivity from the North West, it is vitally important for our government to continue the push for APD removal in Northern Ireland and continue with route development initiatives to get our airports and airlines improving connectivity and making the maximum contribution to our countries economic recovery,” he said.

Foyle SDLP MLA Sinéad McLaughlin said the return of the Manchester link could help boost business links between the two cities.

"The City of Derry Airport provides important economic benefits for Derry, as well as the wider region on both sides of the border,” she said.

“It is essential that the Executive and the British and Irish governments provide the ongoing financial support it needs, not just to survive but to expand."

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