BMI to operate new Derry-London air route as British Government step in with £4million lifeline

BMI to operate new Derry-London air route as British Government step in with £4million lifeline

THE British Government has pledged £3.8million towards maintaining air routes between Derry and London.

It follows Ryanair’s decision last year to discontinue its services between City of Derry Airport and Stansted.

BMI Regional has been chosen as the preferred operator for the route following a competitive tender process by Derry City & Strabane District Council.

BMI will operate two daily return flights except for Saturday, which will have one.

The news marks the first time the British Government has backed a public service obligation (PSO) air route in Northern Ireland.

The Department for Transport decided to step in after deciding that the route was "vital for the economic and social development of the region.”

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire said: “The UK Government has worked closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council to protect this important route to City of Derry Airport.

“£3.8million UK Government funding will allow 13 return flights to connect Londonderry to London every week. The new service will allow business passengers to get to central London and complete a full day’s work before returning home.”

The funding has been withdrawn from the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which was designed to help protect regional air connections to London that are under threat.

Last September, the Northern Ireland Executive led by former First Minister Martin McGuinness announced a £7million lifeline to help support Derry’s stricken airport.

The news of BMI’s new route will come as welcomed reprieve to those who have campaigned for the airport to be saved after Ryanair’s departure.

Jochen Schnadt, chief commercial officer of BMI regional, said the company wanted to invest in the region.

"It is important for businesses that the region is well connected to the UK capital and BMI Regional is proud to be bringing its quality, premium product to this route," he said.

"Whereas previously, business travelers between Derry and London have had to stay overnight in the city, with our new double daily flights they will now be able to commute there and back in a day, saving both money and time, and hopefully resulting in continued economic growth for the Derry region," he added.