The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has announced that passenger flights to Northern Ireland will be safeguarded through a £5.7 million government investment.
The funding will ensure “lifeline services” are maintained, protecting key air links across the UK which are vital for connecting critical workers and ensuring that those who need to travel at this time can continue to do so.
The package is being funded by the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive and will temporarily support airlines and airports that are currently operating, allowing them to continue running air passenger services along two routes from Belfast City and City of Derry to London during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The IAG Group (Aer Lingus) will maintain the Belfast City (BHD) to London Heathrow services, while Loganair will continue to provide Derry-Londonderry (LDY) to London Stansted (STN).
The announcement said that the Belfast to London route “would be at risk without financial assistance given low passenger numbers.”
BHD will provide airport services for the flight to and from London and funds have also been made available to enable LDY to continue to provide its services in support of the Stansted flights.
Secretary Shapps said: “Maintaining air links between Great Britain and Northern Ireland is vital. We must ensure that critical workers can continue to fly over the Irish Sea, and today’s investment in these lifeline services guarantees that.”
Secretary of state for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis MP added: “Today’s announcement is great news for people and businesses in Northern Ireland, it means that crucial air services to and from London, Belfast City Airport and City of Derry Airport will be safeguarded, thanks to this multi-million pound Government support package.
“Alongside the recent £17 million support package the UK Government announced to ensure essential ferry routes were maintained – this additional commitment to safeguard the connectivity of the entire United Kingdom will guarantee the continued supply of critical goods, such as food and medical supplies and ensure key workers are able to carry out their roles.
“The UK Government has promised to do everything in its power to defeat coronavirus and to protect people, jobs and livelihoods across the United Kingdom. As part of our efforts, we have been working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive and the Department for the Economy to deliver this new air connectivity support package and we will continue to work closely with them in the weeks and months ahead as we tackle this pandemic.”
Northern Ireland’s infrastructure minister, Nichola Mallon, said:“I am delighted that I and my Executive colleagues have worked together with the British Government to secure this critical package of support of £5.7million for City of Derry Airport and Belfast City Airport to help with their operating costs when so much of their business has been affected by the impact of the Covid -19 virus. This assistance will also provide financial aid to keep the remaining flights operating out of City of Derry and Belfast City during this difficult time.
“Our airports have been badly affected by the dramatic drop in passenger numbers but, like me, they recognise the need to keep our island connected. This is a unique payment that will offer much needed support in the short term during the crisis. I wish to express my thanks to City of Derry and Belfast City airports which offer routes for essential travel and to Belfast International [BFS] who keep our air freight moving.”