The UK government has signalled that it could step in to support financially the Londonderry to London air route following the recent announcement by current operator Ryanair to stop serving the route at the end of March 2017. Derry City & Strabane Council have been invited to put forward proposals to keep the route open, with a value for money check to ensure the best outcome for taxpayers.
This would be a further boost for the region following the announcement this week that the Northern Ireland Executive will provide up to £7 million support to assist development and growth around City of Derry Airport. The route is a significant link for local businesses and the tourism industry, providing a connection with London which benefits the wider region.
The council can now undertake a tender process to appoint an airline to maintain the operation of this route, which is used by more than 125,000 people a year, with support from the UK government.
Minister for Aviation Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said:
Our airports are vital in supporting local economies, providing connections in the UK and opening up new opportunities.
That is why the UK government has agreed in principle to support the air route between City of Derry Airport and London. In terms of process, it is important that Derry City & Strabane District Council take forward the tender process to secure this route.
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire said:
This is good news for travellers in the north-west and the wider regional economy. Having talked to local business leaders I know the air link with London plays a vital role.
I am pleased the UK government has been able to step in to help, as part of our commitment to build a Northern Ireland that works for everyone.
The backing for a service from Londonderry to London could mark the first ever UK government backing for a public service obligation (PSO) in Northern Ireland. The government maintains regional airport links through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which can be used to protect important regional air connections where they may be at risk of being lost.