DIRECT flights to the United States from Newcastle Airport could come a step closer next week.
A delegation from the airport is to jet out to Stockholm, Sweden, to attend the ‘Routes’ conference, the annual gathering of airlines and airports, where new routes are discussed and deals are done.
Over 300 airlines attend the conference, including Continental, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways, who all operate flights to the US.
American Airlines, who pulled out of a planned route from Newcastle to New York in 2005, will also be there.
It is being seen as a great chance for the North-East to expand its connections across the globe.
A spokeswoman for Newcastle International Airport would not confirm which companies the airport’s representatives would be meeting, but she said efforts would be made to establish links with the US.
“We are keen to expand our services to the west, especially now that we have established a route to the east with Emirates.
“We will be meeting with about 20 different airlines during the four-day conference and some of those will be from the US. Some we have been in discussion with before while others we will be meeting for the first time.”
The fresh bid for a direct US flight comes two years after American Airlines cancelled its scheduled Newcastle to New York route as it was forced to scrap expansion plans due to rising fuel costs following hurricanes Rita and Katrina, despite the fact the company had already taken bookings and many of the first flights were full.
At the time, estimates put the cost to the region’s economy of the cancelled service at about £5m.
Also attending the conference, which runs from Sunday to Wednesday, will be representatives of Durham Tees Valley Airport, One NorthEast and the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, which will be highlighting the benefits of travel to the region.
Tom Warburton, head of regeneration at One NorthEast, said: “Route development has a significant impact on both inward investment and inbound tourism and the Routes Conference offers us a unique opportunity to influence the largest gathering of airline decision makers at one time.
“We are working with Newcastle International and Durham Tees Valley airports to build the business case to attract new routes to North-East England, and the recent successful launch of the first long haul flight into the region with Emirates will strengthen our hand.”
Richard Whitehouse, group charter development manager, Durham Tees Valley Airport, said: “As in previous years the airport will be attending what is the foremost route development conference in the world.
“We have a number of meetings arranged with both current and potential new airlines to discuss the wide range of opportunities available from Durham Tees Valley Airport.”