London City forecasts strong recovery in 2022

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Situated in the heart of the UK capital, London City Airport has revealed that it expects pent-up passenger demand to fuel a surge in air traffic growth in 2022. In line with this expected growth the introduction of new routes and the return of popular destinations will result in more than three quarters of 2019 routes operating at the London hub this year.

Commenting on the year ahead, Robert Sinclair, London City Airport’s CEO said: “At the start of the pandemic we made a conscious decision to work with and support our airlines, as we recognised they were facing the same challenges as we were. Investing in these relationships in the hard times has facilitated what we believe will be a strong bounce back starting with a really exciting summer schedule from London City.”

Flights to Milan, which saw 275,000 passengers travelling on it during 2019 and is one of the airport’s top performing routes, will be reinstated this year. Barcelona will also return to the air transport hub’s destination network for the first time in almost a decade, while new routes to summer hotspots such as Thessaloniki join established favourites such as Split, Mykonos and Faro. In addition, the announcement of a busy summer schedule for British Airways and the easing of COVID restrictions are helping boost the return to business and leisure travel.

Figures show that in 2021 just 714,000 passengers used London City (down 21% on 2020 and 86% on 2019). The data also showed there was a clear spike in passenger traffic at the airport last year once travel restrictions were eased with more than 630,000 passengers using the airport in the last six months.

Business travel is also showing a strong revival on all domestic routes with Edinburgh the top performer. Outside of the UK Amsterdam was the airport’s strongest route for business travel with KLM increasing to four rotations per day in the autumn. Other key business routes included Zurich and Geneva. In October and November last year, business travel accounted for 45% of all London City journeys. The announcement of additional testing and self-isolation requirements by government to combat the Omicron variant saw passenger demand fall by 40% in December.

“2021 was certainly tough for everyone. However, despite predictions from some to the contrary, we did see the emergence of positive business travel trends, which we believe will continue in 2022 and will be so critical for the economic recovery of London and the UK more widely,” added Sinclair.

“While we are not out the woods yet, the signs from governments in the UK and across Europe are that we are learning to live with COVID. I am optimistic that the restrictions that remain today, particularly for vaccinated passengers, will be eased and in time, removed altogether so we can return to the simple and affordable ways of flying before the pandemic.”

Air Astana resumes services from Nur-Sultan Airport

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Air Astana, the flag carrier of Kazakhstan, has resumed services from Nur-Sultan Airport, with international flights to Dubai and Moscow and domestic flights to Atyrau, Shymkent and Turkestan.

Additional international services to Frankfurt and Kutaisi (Georgia) also resumed on 8 January, and to Istanbul on 9 January.

Almaty Airport remains closed in the wake of recent events, but all Air Astana staff and passengers from the city remain safe.

Cologne Bonn welcomes link with southern Serbia

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Air Serbia is now offering a service between Cologne Bonn Airport in Germany and Niš in southern Serbia, marking both a new route and a new airline customer for the German hub.

The route will be operated on an Airbus A319 twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays.

“We are delighted to welcome Air Serbia, another new airline partner to our airport, which is introducing Niš, an exciting new destination to our schedule,” said Managing Director & CFO Torsten Schrank, speaking of the launch.

The third biggest city in Serbia, Niš has a population of around 260,000 and offers visitors a range of museums, cultural attractions, theatres and a university, as well as being a centre for trade and industry.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi successfully closes first operational year

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Operating out of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi – the UAE’s ultra-low-fare national airline – closed its first operational year celebrating significant milestones. The airline has unveiled more than 34 destinations and operated more than 1,080 flights since launching in January 2021, with 506 flights taking place in the fourth quarter of last year.

Destinations launched in the last 12 months by the airline from its base at Abu Dhabi International Airport include Alexandria (Egypt), Athens (Greece), Baku (Azerbaijan), Bahrain, Belgrade (Serbia), Kutaisi (Georgia), Kyiv (Ukraine), Muscat (Oman), Odesa (Ukraine), Sarajevo (Bosnia), Sohag (Egypt), Tel-Aviv (Israel), Tirana (Albania) and Yerevan (Armenia) among others.

Kees Van Schaick, Managing Director of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi commented: “We are proud of what has been achieved since launching our operations in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. Through collaboration with key stakeholders, we have been able to grow and expand our network to more than 34 destinations despite all the challenges we have faced. This has helped us play our role in attracting tourists into the emirate and build on our ambitions to expand our network to even many more destinations. Our aim is to serve a large segment of travellers and provide them with affordable packages with great memories and experiences to remember. We look forward to continuing our contribution to enhancing the development of the aviation and tourism sectors in the emirate of Abu Dhabi and achieving many more successful milestones in the coming years,”

According to Wizz Air Abu Dhabi, the lanch of the Emirati scheduled low-cost airline has introduced a new segment of travel in the UAE by highlighting the importance of bringing in a bold new frontier for ultra-low fare travel in the region. The airline has also contributed to supporting the UAE and Abu Dhabi’s efforts towards the post-pandemic tourism recovery and driving the UAE capital’s ongoing economic diversification strategy.

The airline operates a young fleet composed of four brand new state-of-the-art Airbus A321neo aircraft, offering the lowest fuel burn, emissions and noise footprint. Wizz Air Abu Dhabi has the lowest environmental footprint among its competitors in the region, supporting long-term sustainability.

Manchester Airport welcomes return of direct flights to Bangladesh

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Sunday 26 January will see Manchester Airport in the UK welcome the return of flights to Bangladesh with Biman Bangladesh Airlines.

The Bangladeshi carrier will recommence twice weekly services to Dhaka and Sylhet from Sunday until 28 March using its state-of-the-art dreamliner aircraft.

“There has been significant demand for a direct service to Bangladesh for many years, so when the route returned in 2019 it was greatly received. It is therefore really positive news to see the route return as the aviation sector begins its road to recovery,” said Karen Smart, Managing Director of Manchester Airport.

“Manchester Airport is the UK’s gateway to the North of England and within our catchment area there are many long-standing Bangladeshi communities for whom this will make a massive difference.

“There is also a great number of northern companies who trade with Bangladesh, and many more with a desire to do so, meaning this route is a real boost for them and will unlock and enable many business opportunities,” she continued.

The North of England boasts one of the most vibrant Bangladeshi communities in the UK and it is estimated that around 55,000 people a year currently travel from Manchester’s catchment area to Dhaka and Sylhet. Meanwhile 60,000 passengers travel to Biman’s onward network.

Kazi Ziaul Hasan, Assistant High Commissioner of Bangladesh in Manchester, added: “The resumption of direct flight by Bangladesh Biman is a significant and firm step on the part of Bangladesh’s national carrier in the service sector. This direct flight will re-energise the movement of people, infuse dynamism in trade and business opportunities. As Bangladesh graduates to developing country status and the size as well as resilience of the economy augments, trade and investment opportunities are enormous.”

Eastern debuts PSO route from Cornwall to Gatwick

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UK-based regional carrier, Eastern Airways, celebrated its new Public Service Obligation (PSO) route from Cornwall Airport Newquay to London Gatwick on Wednesday 15 December. The airline, which has its headquarters at Humberside Airport, was awarded the four-year PSO contract with a £1.8m financial package to subsidise the route from the UK Government on 21 November.

Eastern celebrated its inaugural flight from Cornwall by demonstrating its commitment to reducing carbon emissions. It not only operated the route on one of its ATR72-600 turboprop aircraft – which according to ATR is “by far the most fuel efficient regional aircraft” – but the flight was also refuelled with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Supplied by Air bp, the fuel was a 37% blend of SAF with conventional jet fuel which produces a lifecycle carbon reduction of around 80% compared with traditional jet fuel.

“We’re pleased to have been able to refuel with SAF today, but the industry and government still have a lot of work to do to make SAF more widely available and ultimately affordable,” said Adam Wheatley, Eastern Airways’ Managing Director (pictured right alongside Cornwall Airport Newquay’s Amy Smith) speaking after the flight had landed at Gatwick Airport.

Restoring a vital link

While the PSO route was previously operated between Cornwall and London Heathrow by Flybe (which went into liquidation in 2020), Eastern’s restoration of this vital air connection has been well received by businesses and those living locally in Cornwall.

“Cornwall Airport Newquay has worked tirelessly this year to restore lost regional services with several airlines stepping up to take on routes, as only our resilient sector can,” said Wheatley.

He added that the link with London is a “vital missing piece of the puzzle of connectivity” as he underlined the airline’s commitment to boost traffic to and from the region.

Gatwick Airport’s Head of Corporate Affairs, Tim Norwood, commented that the arrival of Eastern from Cornwall shows “we are moving back that bit more towards normality and we have a great deal of optimism for next year.” He also explained that Gatwick offers “superb links into the heart of London,” making it an ideal hub for those travelling for business as well as for leisure.

Speaking as the Interim Director for Cornwall Airport Newquay, Tim Jeans, echoed Norwood’s sense of optimism. “We’re delighted to be inaugurating the return of services to London from Cornwall. It’s a link that’s really been missed by those living locally and they’ve been longing for it to be restored with a regular, reliable, predictable service. And that’s what PSO routes do – they provide a sustainable link from a remote region, in this case Cornwall, to the capital year round.” Jeans was accompanied by Cornwall Airport Newquay’s new Managing Director, Samantha O’Dwyer (pictured left alongside Eastern Airway’s Adam Wheatley and Gatwick’s Tim Norwood) who will take up her new role early in the new year.

Jeans also explained that initially Eastern Airways will operate the route with a once a day service until mid January, when frequency will increase to twice daily departures from both Newquay and Gatwick.

Boosting Cornwall’s economy

As well as restoring connectivity with affordable air fares, Eastern’s new service will also boost Cornwall’s economy providing jobs and broadening trade opportunities. “The business economy of Cornwall depends on connectivity. About seven or eight years ago the airport wasn’t really relevant to many living in the region because it offered limited services that were relatively infrequent and expensive. However, we’ve managed to turn that around and this summer we will have nine airlines serving Cornwall offering a range of destinations including London. A frequent, reliable, regular connection to the capital is so important for us,” he continued.

Wheatley added, “We know how important these PSOs are to the areas in which we operate and just talking to some of the local population down in Cornwall the excitement around the return of the route is palpable with one resident describing it as a ‘lifeline'”.

Touching on the airline’s decision to fly into Gatwick rather than Heathrow or other London hubs, Wheatley concluded, “We were welcomed here at Gatwick. I’m not sure that was quite the same with Heathrow especially with their fee structure.”

Eastern is also currently exploring several agreements with Gatwick serving airlines to provide Cornish-originating travellers with a range of onward routes.

Orlando celebrates arrival of Aer Lingus service from Manchester

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Aer Lingus has launched its direct service from Manchester Airport in the UK to Orlando, Florida just in time for the holiday season.

Flight El 35, operated on an A330, is the third route launched by Aer Lingus UK as part of its new services from Manchester Airport direct to the US and the Caribbean.

Holidaymakers wanting to visit the ‘sunshine state’ of Florida have four weekly flights to choose from.

Knock Airport welcomes Ryanair link with Birmingham

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Irish low-cost carrier (LCC), Ryanair, has added a Birmingham to Knock service to its 2022 schedule. The twice weekly service reinforces the airline’s commitment to the UK as it rebuilds its tourism industry following the global pandemic.

“We are pleased to add this new route to Knock as part of our UK’s 22 schedule, offering our customers yet another amazing European destination to choose from when planning their summer break,” said Ryanair’s Director of Commercial, Jason McGuinness.

As part of its growth plan, the airline has already added more than 560 routes and opened 16 bases throughout the last 12 months. Looking ahead to next year, the “addition of 65 new B737-8200 ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft to its fleet, which offer 4% more seats, 16% less fuel and a 40% reduction in noise emissions, making Ryanair’s S’22 schedule the most exciting and environmentally friendly to date,” added McGuinness.

Birmingham Airport named as Flybe’s new headquarters and crew base

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The revived regional carrier, Flybe, has revealed that Birmingham Airport in the UK will serve as its new headquarters and first new crew base. The launch of the new Flybe is expected not only to enhance essential regional connectivity in the UK, but also to create many valuable industry jobs and help restart local economies as they rebound from the pandemic.

The airline is among the first UK carriers to be certified by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) since Brexit. It will serve key regions across the UK and EU with operations scheduled to begin in early 2022. In a move that will create around 200 direct new jobs in the Birmingham and West Midlands region, the airline’s HQ and operations centre will be located in Birmingham Airport’s Diamond House. An additional 400 direct jobs are projected to be created nationwide.

Describing Birmingham as “an ideal choice”, Flybe CEO Dave Pflieger, cited the city’s great people, highly skilled workforce, its central UK location and the airport’s function as a global travel as reasons behind choosing the West Midlands hub as its home base.

“The announcement marks the culmination of over 12 months of dedicated hard work by all involved, and it would not have been possible without the support of the CAA and the UK Government,” he said.

Meanwhile Nick Barton, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport added: “Flybe’s announcement that Birmingham has been chosen to become the headquarters for its launch next spring is fantastic news for our region’s connectivity needs, and it will bring with it some great new employment opportunities. Dave’s vast experience in managing start-up airlines and turnaround situations, coupled with the recovery of the Midlands’ economy post-Covid, means that Flybe’s return to the skies from Birmingham is a shot in the arm for our airport as well as West Midlands businesses and communities. We look forward to working with Dave and his team in preparation for next spring and to launch such a well-known brand here in Birmingham.”

Domestic hubs in Sweden to benefit from Ryanair investment and expansion

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To coincide with next year’s summer season the Irish low-cost carrier (LCC), Ryanair, will launch domestic routes to Lulea and Visby from Stockholm Arlanda Airport, as well as 10 new international direct routes from the Swedish capital.

The new routes are in line with the LCC’s plan to base four aircraft at the Stockholm hub from where it will launch 35 new routes within six months. Half of these destinations are new for the airport and include: Brindisi, Venice and Rome-Fiumicino in Italy, Beziers in France, Corfu in Greece, Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Poznan and Wroclaw in Poland and Zadar in Croatia.

“It is with great joy that we welcome Ryanair’s continued expansion in the Swedish market. The airline’s 12 new routes to exciting destinations in Europe, including two domestic ones are an important addition and complement to the existing offering at our airports,” said Charlotte Ljunggren, Director of Marketing & Sales at Swedavia.

She added that the new routes will improve access both within and outside Sweden. “This access is important for growth in the region and the tourism industry all across Sweden. We have a good collaboration with Ryanair for many years, which we now look forward to developing even further going forward,” Ljunggren said.