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City of Derry Airport: Sharp Drop in Passenger Numbers

There has been a sharp decline in passenger numbers at City of Derry Airport, official figures show.

The number of people flying in and out of the airport over the last decade is down, according to data seen on the Civil Aviation Authority website.

Figures for 2022 show that 163,000 people passed through the airport, which is less than half the number of passengers just nine years ago.

So far in 2023, passenger numbers are down every month since May.

This includes June, July and August which are, traditionally, peak times for air travel.

In 2013, about 385,000 passengers passed through the airport but the last time passenger numbers exceeded 300,000 was in 2014.

Only 204,000 people flew in 2019. That was the year before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw low passenger numbers across all airports.

City of Derry Airport is owned by Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) and costs ratepayers £3.45m to help with operational costs, which is five per cent of the council’s entire annual budget.

The airport operates twice daily return flights to Heathrow and also has flights to Manchester, Glasgow and up until recently Liverpool.

Loganair’s Liverpool route stopped at the end of October though it will continue to operate flights on selected dates in December and January.

Concerns over the funding for the airport were raised during this month’s meeting of DCSDC’s Governance and Strategic Planning Committee.

Members heard that the airport board and the council are to write joint letters to the British and Irish governments and Stormont outlining their concerns.

BBC News NI understands that councillors will attempt to lobby ministers in London, Dublin and civil servants in Belfast for yet more financial support.

A council spokesperson said it and airport officials had been engaging with the UK and Irish Governments to secure the funding needed for the continued sustainability and growth of the airport.

In 2021, the council submitted a business case to Stormont for a funding package for up to six years, but that business case has still not been approved.

That is according to a letter from Northern Ireland Office (NIO) Minister Steve Baker to the council’s chief executive, John Kelpie.

This was in reply to a request from the council to meet the Secretary of State Chris Heaton Harris for an urgent meeting to discuss the airport and the business case.

The airport’s managing director, Steve Frazer, said he fully expected that their business case would be addressed when ministers return to Stormont.

“There has been positive engagement between the airport, elected representatives and government departments,” he said.

“There has been similar engagement with officials in Dublin to explore what could be done to recognise the contribution made across the wider northwest region.”

The Republic of Ireland’s Department of Transport confirmed to BBC News NI that City of Derry Airport had called for financial support from the Irish government.

It said that while it was not eligible for funding under the Republic’s Regional Airports Programme, the department was considering other funding opportunities that may be available for the airport.

The Irish government has previously subsidised a flight from Derry to Dublin, through what is known as a Public Service Obligation (PSO).

A PSO air route sees a government support flights which would not be commercially viable without financial assistance.

A spokesperson for the Irish government said it has committed to taking forward a review of the potential for financial support for renewed viable air routes between Derry and Dublin and Cork to Belfast under its New Decade New Approach (NDNA) commitments.

A NIO spokesperson said that funding for airports in Northern Ireland was a devolved matter.

The UK government currently subsidises Loganair’s Heathrow route, but the NIO confirmed that this currently only runs until the end of next March.

Source : BBC