BUSINESSES in the North East are reaping hundreds of millions of pounds of rewards from Emirates’ Newcastle to Dubai link, new research claims.
The flights, which launched in 2007, now carry around 80,000 passengers a year with 11.5m tonnes of cargo imported and exported in their hold.
And in three years it is possible it could go from a once-a-day to a twice-daily service as has recently been introduced in Glasgow.
With a new, much larger, £186m Airbus 777-300ER serving Newcastle International nearly 24 hours a day from September, firms have been encouraged to grasp the opportunity for international trade.
The current Emirates plane has 278 seats while the new one has 428 of which 42 are business class.
Laurie Berryman, the vice-chairman of Emirates who oversaw the Dubai link being established five years ago, said the scale of the investment, at a time when the airline’s profits were down 70%, showed their confidence in the region.
And he added that should all go to plan, expansion of the route could happen in three years’ time. “We’ve been delighted by how people, businesses and political organisations have got behind the route and made it a success,” he said.
“But now we want to increase passenger numbers by 15% this year and 20% next year – from 80,000 people to around 120,000 or 130,000 – and we definitely think that is achievable.”
Mr Berryman said that in a time of economic turmoil for the eurozone and America, he was delighted to be able to help North East businesses connect directly with places to the east, including India, China and Oceania, the latter of which has seen a huge £125m a year increase in trade with the region since 2007.
But the airline is not resting on its laurels and hopes its ambitious plans will get the support of local businesses.
“You never know, in three years’ time we might be here again discussing a double daily service,” he said.
Research carried out by York Aviation on behalf of Newcastle International Airport claims that since 2007 the Dubai link has saved North East firms around £20.3m by cutting the time it takes to travel abroad.
It also shows that leisure travellers coming in on the Emirates route are worth around £16.7m a year to the region’s economy, with £7.2m spent by visiting businessmen.
And going the other way, the report, which will be fully published later in the year, claims the annual value of exports from North East companies using the route now exceeds £150m.
James Ramsbottom, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said that was helping to ensure that this region exports £3bn more of goods and services each year than it is bringing in.
“At a time when we need to use exports to grow our economy, we’re doing more about it in the North East than anyone else.
“And this route is doing more for that than anything else,” he said.