New flights, extra jobs and fresh facilities for record numbers of passengers. Steve Dyson reports on Birmingham Airport’s growth in a busy 2018.
More than 50 jobs have been created at Birmingham Airport as its newest carrier prepares a series of flight launches from later this spring. Primera Air have recruited flight crew and operational positions ahead of its launch of direct, low-cost services to New York, Toronto, Malaga, Barcelona, Palma and Crete from May.
Anastasija Visnakova, chief commercial officer for the Icelandic-owned company, says: “We are proud and excited to place Birmingham on our route map for 2018.
“We are opening our operations here with two transatlantic and four short-haul destinations and are looking forward to further development of this Primera Air base.
“This is an important first step for us and a significant development for Birmingham Airport and the wider region. With the technology that our new fleet offers, expensive transatlantic travel becomes a thing of history.”
Primera Air will operate with the Airbus A321 Neos, a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft able to fly on routes usually only accessed by wide-body jets. The forthcoming transatlantic services should suit the business community in the West Midlands, which exported £6.2bn worth of goods to the United States last year, second only behind the South East of England, and exported £778.5m to Canada, the highest of any region in the UK.
Tim Clarke, chairman of Birmingham Airport, says: “Primera has seen the enormous opportunities available in the Midlands thanks to its strong trading and cultural links with the US and Canada, and the leisure travellers’ desire to escape to warmer Mediterranean climes.
“Primera is able to offer low fares due to its Airbus A321 Neos, which means that these services are accessible to all pockets – whether travelling on holiday, visiting loved ones or flying for business.”
Primera Air’s first flights will start on 14 May to Malaga and Palma, with New York launching on the 18 May and Toronto on the 23 June. Crete will the start on 30 July and Barcelona on 1 October. Flights will operate to New York four times weekly, and to Toronto three times weekly, with fares to both destination starting at £149 one way. Crete will operate weekly from £54, and Malaga, Palma and Barcelona will operate daily from £35. Visit www.primeraair.co.uk for more details.
Meanwhile, Air India has launched the UK’s only direct flight to Amritsar from Birmingham Airport. The new, twice-weekly, and non-stop service complements the airline’s established Delhi service from Birmingham, which began in August 2013. That service has carried more than 600,000 passengers in the four years it has operated using the popular Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft.
William Pearson, aviation director at Birmingham Airport, says: “We are proud to say we are offering a unique route, as Birmingham’s the only UK airport offering a direct service to Amritsar.
“The Midlands has the second-largest Asian community in the UK and so it’s great news that we’re making more of India accessible to our passengers for business, leisure and to visit family and friends.”
Tara Naidu, regional manager for the UK and Europe at Air India, says: “Amritsar is an important spiritual centre for the Sikh faith, home to the Golden Temple as well as a major commercial and cultural centre in the heart of the Punjab.
“The Sikh community has long awaited this direct route and so we’re sure it will be as popular as our Delhi service from Birmingham.”
Flights operate on Tuesdays and Thursdays, departing Birmingham at 18:45, reaching Amritsar early the next morning at 07:45. From Amritsar the flight departs at 13:55 arriving into Birmingham at 17:15 the same day. The route will operate with Boeing 787-8 series aircraft with 256 seats in a split cabin, comprising 18 flat beds business-class seats and 238 economy seats. More details at www.airindia.in
The new flights come as Birmingham Airport recently announced it had experienced the busiest year in its 78-year history after seeing almost 13 million passengers pass through its terminal in 2017. In total, 12,983,436 passengers travelled through the airport from January to December, up by 1.3 million from 2016, a healthy increase of 11.5%.
The busiest month fell in August when almost 1.5 million passengers were recorded, a significant 16.2% increase on the same month in 2016, and in total there were seven months in which over a million passengers were recorded.
David Winstanley, chief operating officer at Birmingham Airport, says: “Last year we celebrated the busiest 12 months in our history, including the launch of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays and the return of British Airways and Bmi Regional.
“Emirates maintained a strong presence in the region and introduced its second daily A380 aircraft onto its established lunchtime service between Birmingham and Dubai.
“The year was indeed one of celebration but also commiseration as we sadly saw the demise of a long-established airline, Monarch. This airline carried an average of 5,000 passengers per day from Birmingham, but we have seen some existing carriers and new carriers pick up almost all of this capacity already to reduce the impact on our passengers.”
The growth means Birmingham Airport has started a multi-million-pound programme of development works to improve the passenger journey through the terminal.
The works include redeveloping the security processing area to provide more boarding card gates, a dedicated security preparation area and a refreshed waiting area with new flooring and lighting. Winstanley adds: “This investment follows record passenger growth and to ensure that we’re prepared for the coming summer period, when the airport will welcome new long-haul services as well as many new popular short-haul destinations.
“The service we give our customers is an absolute priority for us so we’re investing a great deal to improve the airport journey.”
The airport is also developing its retail and catering offer, with the recent opening of The Factory restaurant and the arrival of Kurt Geiger to its airside shopping experience. Later this spring, a new Bottega Prosecco bar will open as well as Wrapchic – an Indian-inspired burrito and sandwich outlet.
A covered walkway to the terminal is also under construction for those who choose to walk to the terminal from the free drop off car park, and a new 178-guestroom Hilton Garden Inn hotel will open in the summer.
New digital wayfinding and signage will be introduced before the summer season, and additional staff are being recruited in key customer facing areas, including terminal operations, customer relations and security officers.
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