The Government is to provide £1.8m for the next two years to ensure year-round flights from Newquay to London give the South West a huge economic boost.
The flights, which Eastern Airlines will operate, will start on December 15 under a PSO (public service obligation) agreement and create 20 jobs at Newquay’s airport.
By paying Cornwall Council to ensure the flights take place for the next two years, the Government said it will create hundreds of jobs and keep people connected as the nation “builds back better” from the pandemic. Ministers will also provide up to £2.5m to fund direct flights for a further two years between Dundee and London until 2023.
South West aviation stories
The two PSO agreements ensure people from both ends of the country can stay connected through direct flights and benefit from economic growth through encouraging tourism and business travel for years to come, the Government said.
Loganair will operate flights from Dundee Airport to London City Airport while it was announced on November 16 that flights from Cornwall Airport Newquay to Gatwick will be operated by Humberside-based Eastern Airways.
The new service will run daily from December 15 before increasing to double daily year-round from mid-January, helping restore regional connectivity from Cornwall and South West Devon to the capital.
In offering London Gatwick as the London airport option, a significant number of onward connecting services are opened up in addition to serving the UK’s most sought after break location of Cornwall year-round, achieving improved speed of accessibility also essential for business.
The news has been seen as hugely positive for the region and an essential link for Cornwall by many businesses given the importance of fast access to London and also the vital regional economic stimulus this offers the tourism and leisure sectors.
Eastern Airways said it now provides Cornwall as the major attraction for UK staycations with flight connectivity from London compared to slow and time consuming surface transport options.
Flights will operate initially daily to help quickly restore connections before Christmas and the New Year. This increases to 14 flights each way a week, operating double-daily round-trips timed to allow a full day in London or Cornwall.
The service will operate on low-emission regional turbo-prop aircraft also ensuring the route is delivered as a lower carbon environmentally sustainable option.
This supports the airport and airline’s strategies towards sustainability, while offering a fast way of travelling for varied lengths of stay, with flights taking little over an hour. Fares on the route start from £34.99 one-way, Eastern Airways said.
Adam Wheatley, managing director at Eastern Airways, said: “Working in partnership with the UK Government and Cornwall Council connecting one of the most distant surface transport journeys in England to the capital via London Gatwick Airport, in a low emission aircraft fits our belief in how sustainable aviation can meet the need of the UK economy and extensive connectivity into the future.
“We welcome the approach taken by all stakeholders and partners to commence this service and will continue to further support the South West region in wider accessibility, adding around 20 new direct jobs at Cornwall Newquay Airport.”
Mark Duddridge, chair of the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Cornwall’s air links are vital to rebuilding our connectivity with other parts of the UK and the rest of the world following the disruption caused by coronavirus.
“The reintroduction of the Newquay to London route shows that we are open for business and is a real vote of confidence in the future of the airport and the Cornish economy as we bounce back from the Covid crisis.”
The PSO flights had been on hold since the original Flybe company, which operated them, went into administration in March 2020. That firm is now called FBE Realisations 2021 Ltd and is still in administration, and a new, unrelated, Flybe Ltd has yet to start any flights at all, though it has now appointed experienced aviation executive Dave Pflieger as chief executive and announced it will operate from Birmingham Airport.
Cornwall Council, which owns Cornwall Airport Newquay, tendered for a new operator for the four-year contract, but earlier in 2021 suspended the PSO when it was unable to find any firm to take it on. A new tendering process began in July with a deadline for applicants of September 7.
The only route running from Cornwall Newquay Airport to London in 2021 has been British Airways’ commercial summer service to Heathrow, which ended in September. Since September 28 there have been no flights connecting Cornwall to London.
The PSO is designed to provide a year-round service, especially during winter months when the route may not be commercially profitable without a subsidy.
Philip Desmonde, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport, said: “It is vital for our residents and business community that direct flights between Newquay and London are maintained and I welcome the news that Eastern Airways will operate our key route.
“This PSO service not only protects Cornwall’s links with London but also offers excellent connectivity around the world into the future.
“While connectivity is vital, we must seek to minimise the impact of air travel on the environment. The council has worked with all parties to ensure that the environmental impact of the air route is kept to a minimum by selecting aircraft which have lower emissions and lower noise impacts, as well as aligning schedules to ensure capacity meets demand.”
Eastern Airways already serves Cornwall Airport Newquay from Leeds-Bradford commencing services to the Cornish hub two years ago.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive, London Gatwick Airport, said that by, connecting London and the South East with Cornwall and the South West “it opens up both business and job opportunities – vital as the country looks to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic”.
Business Live’s South West Business Reporter is William Telford. William has more than a decade’s experience reporting on the business scene in Plymouth and the South West. He is based in Plymouth but covers the entire region.
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Tim Jeans, interim director at Cornwall Airport Newquay said: “The London route forms the cornerstone of our recovery strategy at Cornwall Airport Newquay and we very much look forward to working with the team at Eastern Airways to rebuild the historically strong demand on the route and make the service a success. We now have 10 airlines who will be operating routes out of Newquay in 2022 to a variety of destinations as the airport starts to play a key role again in keeping Cornwall connected.”
Robert Court, aviation minister, said: “We’re maintaining these vital transport links, including the hugely popular London to Dundee and the reinstated Newquay to London routes, for people right across the country for tourism and business travel.”
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