A BUDGET airline is scrapping routes and reducing the number of aircraft it operates from the region's biggest airport.
EasyJet is axing its winter services from Newcastle to Murcia and Rome, as well as lowering the frequency of flights to a host of other destinations.
As a result, it will now only base three airplanes on Tyneside, compared to the current five, which will lead to eight fewer pilots working in the region.
The airline has also confirmed it will only operate three aircraft on its summer routes next year. Airport bosses say the reductions are offset by the fact other companies are simultaneously bolstering the services they provide from Newcastle.
Low-cost rival Jet2.com recently announced it will start flying to Toulouse, Alicante and Faro, as well as bringing back services to Krakow, Poland, and Prague, in the Czech Republic.
EasyJet UK communications manager Sarah McIntyre said: “EasyJet can confirm that it will be reducing the number of aircraft based in Newcastle from five to three for the winter schedule and expect this number to remain the same for summer 2011.
“This is as a result of an ongoing review of all routes across the network and adjusting in accordance to customer demand. There will be no impact on cabin crew or first officers, however, we expect a small reduction in the number of captains that operate out of Newcastle.
“Those impacted will be offered internal transfers to other bases around our network and, as we wish to retain our talent, we are also considering other options such as part-time working.”
EasyJet first arrived at Newcastle International in 2003, with the first flight jetting over to Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the April of that year.
Back then, it operated just three routes, with the other two being Alicante and Barcelona, and flights started at £1 per person.
Since then, the airline’s presence on Tyneside has grown and passengers can fly to 16 different locations from Newcastle International during the course of the year.
Graeme Mason, head of planning and corporate affairs at the airport, said: “Despite the tough economic situation, we expect to maintain a similar range of services and the same overall passenger volumes by working with all of our airline partners, including easyJet.
“From time to time, the airline operating particular routes will change, but this has always been the case throughout our 75 years.”
Jet2.com’s recent announcement meant 150,000 extra seats will be available to North East holidaymakers from next year, as well as 30 new jobs being created.
In addition to its new routes, further services are being added to existing summer 2011 schedules to holiday favourites, including Ibiza, Mahon, Malaga, Tunisia, Murcia and Palma.
EasyJet reduced the number of aircraft used for its winter schedule to four last year but brought it back up to five for the summers.
This latest announcement means just three will be based here next summer but some routes will be serviced by planes that are housed at other airports.
Newcastle International chiefs will now be looking to plug the gaps left by easyJet.