The North East once again has a direct link to Brussels with the launch of new flights from Newcastle.
Passengers have been unable to go straight to the capital of Europe from the region for almost a year after Brussels Airlines pulled out of the route.
But now BMI Regional has stepped in, offering 11 flights a week to and from Belgium – with it’s inaugural service greeted with a water cannon salute as it touched down at Newcastle International Airport.
“This is great news for the region,” airport planning and corporate affairs director Graeme Mason said.
“The route is one that we lost earlier in the economic downturn, but we were determined to get it back.
“We’ve worked very closely with businesses in the region and with the MEPs – who we’d like to thank for their support – and we’ve got a great airline in BMI Regional, which is the most punctual in the UK.
“Connectivity is very important, and not just to business – Newcastle University finds EU funding key so we hope this route will also let them grow.”
MEP Martin Callanan said, while the route will save him hours in travel time every week, it is the boon to business he is most looking forward to.
“This is great news for the region as transport routes are key to businesses, and will help to bring more jobs and revenue to the regional economy,” he said.
BMI chief executive Cathal O’Connell said the first flight had demonstrated exactly the sort of passengers they believe will be using the service, which runs twice a day Monday to Friday and once on Sunday.
“We’re absolutely delighted to be providing this service,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of discussions with both business and leisure interests on both sides of the sea and we believe the demand is there for this.
“The first flight had 38 people on board and that included businessmen, families and people from the Parliament, which is exactly the sort of people we expect.
“We’ll start with 11 flights a week and then, if the demand is there, look at the possibility of a third daily flight.”