Derry City and Strabane District Councillor for the Moor ward, Gary Donnelly, has expressed surprise at the price of airfares on bmi regional’s new Derry to Stansted service which, as of yesterday morning, ranged between £200 and £320 for a day return per person over the next month.
The independent representative said he was concerned high prices would likely divert passengers from City of Derry which is subsidised by the local council.
One of the selling points of the new route when it was launched a month and a half ago was that it would allow travellers to arrive in London city centre before 9.00 am, after which they could complete a full day’s business before returning home to Derry on the early evening return flight.
However, since then, concerns have been expressed from some quarters over the price of flights locally.
Yesterday morning a survey of consecutive Monday returns from Derry to Stansted over the next month found that the price of the flights ranged from £320 on June 26, to £260 on July 3, to £239 on July 10, to £203 on July 17, to £203 on July 24.
Colr. Donnelly, who has been a vocal critic of the level at which the local council has been subsidising the airport - the ongoing annual subvention currently stands at £2m - said the average citizen of Derry and Strabane couldn’t afford such expensive prices.
“I’d be concerned at the level of pricing,” he told the ‘Journal.’
“I know people that would prefer to go to Belfast or even Knock because it is cheaper to fly out from there on holidays.”
The Creggan-based councillor said the reality was the level of economic deprivation in the city effectively debarred most local people from accessing the local service.
“You’re coming from an area, which suffers from high unemployment and deprivation so people don’t have a lot of money to spend in the first place.
“So if they can save a few pounds by heading up the road, the reality is that’s what they are going to do.
“They can’t afford it. If there were proper jobs and wages, then by all means, but the reality is people are struggling and they will go where they are going to get a better deal.
“The reality is, if you can get a cheaper flight from Belfast to London and get a better deal, they are going to take it, especially in the current economic climate.”
The ‘Journal’ asked bmi regional if it viewed the flight prices as excessive, however, at the time of going to Press no comment was forthcoming.
The Derry to London route is currently being funded by the UK Government under a Public Service Obligation (PSO).
Over 2017/18 and 2018/19 it will contribute £3.8million to the service.
In February, Secretary of State James Brokenshire said: “£3.8 million UK Government funding will allow 13 return flights to connect Londonderry to London every week.
“The new service will allow business passengers to get to central London and complete a full day’s work before returning home.”