AN airline has performed an abrupt U-turn by cancelling its direct flights from Newcastle to Brussels.
Brussels Airlines currently runs three flights a day, six days a week from the region to Belgium’s capital.
Only last month, as part of a deal with budget operator Flybe, it announced plans to increase capacity by 60%.
But future flights were quietly dropped from the company’s website, and now airport bosses have admitted the route is under threat and they are looking for someone else to take it on.
North East Euro MP Fiona Hall said the move risked sending out the wrong message to companies looking to invest in the area. But the North East Chamber of Commerce said the move needs to be considered alongside the recent positive announcements of more flights to other parts of Europe.
“Good transport links to the continent are vital for companies in the region,” said Ms Hal, “so axing this route is really unhelpful at a time when trade with the rest of Europe is more and more important.
“A wide range of people from managers to technical staff have meetings with their European colleagues on a regular basis. They need to be able to go to Brussels conveniently and reliably just as they go to London.
“Cutting services to such an important city risks sending the wrong message to existing businesses and those looking to invest.”
Seven weeks ago, a 78-seater Bombardier Q400 aircraft was introduced on the route, increasing capacity on the thrice-daily service by 60%. At the time it was said that the “frequency of flights and range of onward connections” was ensuring the route “remains popular and continues to thrive”.
But the \airline has removed the flights from its website beyond March 31 and Newcastle International Airport confirmed the route was under threat.
“The airport can confirm that Brussels Airlines is withdrawing its service to Brussels from the end of March 2013,” a spokesman said.
“Newcastle International Airport is working together with Brussels Airlines and others to secure a suitable replacement airline for this route.”
NECC infrastructure policy specialist, Mark Stephenson said he was not concerned by the potential loss of the flights.
"This announcement should be placed in the context of Newcastle International Airport announcing new routes into Eastern Europe and Scandinavia over the past 12 months, all of which will ease access to new markets for North East businesses,” he said.
"No doubt Newcastle is doing all it can to secure a replacement for the service, but in the meantime it continues to offer links to Brussels via other hub airports, which will still serve a valuable role for businesses and travellers.”
A spokesperson for Brussels Airlines was unavailable for comment last night.