THE recovery of business travel to and from the region has received a further boost after airline bosses announced plans to extend its services from the North East.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will be adding a fifth daily flight to and from Amsterdam to its schedule from Newcastle International Airport from March.
Bosses at the airport have welcomed the move as another “green shoot” of recovery for the region helping North East business to further forge export links with partners abroad.
The increased frequency was also hailed as another positive step in the airport’s bid to hold on to its major partners through the economic downturn.
The announcement comes after German national airline Lufthansa announced it had enjoyed a boom in business passenger figures and hoped to return to its pre-recession passenger rate of 2008 by the end of the year.
Newcastle International’s planning and corporate affairs director Graeme Mason said: “The announcement by KLM is another strong signal of confidence in the North East and Newcastle Airport and follows on from some very positive comments from Lufthansa.
“We are definitely seeing a strengthening in business travel, particularly in international hub destinations with a number of airlines showing strong evidence of growth.
“If it wasn’t for the snow we’ve had over recent weeks, we would have seen year on year growth. We hope as we get into the new year the growth will continue.”
KLM have announced the new frequency will come into affect from March 27 2011, alongside revised timings for their existing flights.
The 80-minute flights will now depart Newcastle at 6.05am, 9.10am, 11.15am, 1.20pm and 4.30pm. Passengers will be able to fly back from Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at 8.10am, 10.05am, 12.20pm, 3.25pm and 9.55pm.
As well as easier access to Holland the airline said it would improve North East passengers’ long haul opportunities to destinations such as Dubai and Hong Kong via its main hub at Amsterdam.
The additional service will mean the carrier can increase its passenger capacity on the route by 25% compared with last summer.
KLM have flown routes from Newcastle for more than 25 years and also operate flights from Durham-Tees Valley.
Henri Hourcade, general manager of Air France KLM UK and Ireland, said: “Our new summer schedule is great news for Newcastle International and for KLM and is a tangible symbol of the strength of our operations out of Newcastle.
“Whether travelling for business or leisure the new schedule means faster connectivity with KLM’s intercontinental route network, seamless integration with our European network and the convenience of being able to do a full day’s business in Amsterdam and be back home in time for dinner.
“The improved Newcastle-Amsterdam schedule also means Newcastle has access to long haul travel from the convenience of its own doorstep.
“Passengers no longer need to embark upon long car journeys to other airports in the region for direct flights, with a minimum 50 minutes connection time at Schiphol, KLM offers fast and efficient long haul travel.”
Chief executive of Newcastle International Airport Dave Laws said: “We are delighted with this news from KLM. The airline can now offer up to eight flights a day from Newcastle to Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle for onward worldwide connections, and connectivity in the global marketplace is crucial to the North East economy.
“This announcement is a tremendous vote of confidence by Air France KLM in not only this airport but also, and more importantly, the entire region.”