Commuter carrier Eastern Airways has announced three new routes from Cardiff International Airport. Starting April 24, the Humberside based airline will offer three flights each weekday to Brussels from the Welsh capital, two to Newcastle, and a daily flight to Aberdeen.
The niche airline will service the new routes from Cardiff using 29-seater Jetstream 41 aircraft, taking over the routes from Air Wales which last week announced the suspension of its scheduled services from the same airport. Says Darren Roberts, Communications Manager for Eastern Airways:
"We looked at the routes made available by the withdrawal of Air Wales, and felt that Newcastle, Brussels and Aberdeen fitted into our schedule well. We are already the biggest operator out of Aberdeen airport, with the oil operators making up a lot of our market in that area, and expect the majority of passengers using these routes to be business travellers looking to avoid overnight stays."
Eastern Airways has carved a market for itself by plying domestic routes with poor surface connections, such as Inverness from Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds, and Norwich – Manchester / Aberdeen. The latter route takes 1hr 20mins, giving passengers the opportunity to undertake a day trip that would be impossible by road or rail.
The expansion follows the commencement of the airline's London City - Newcastle route, which began on January 31. Says Roberts,
"The important thing with this route was to give passengers a large enough choice of flights, and we believe that four flights daily is what the market needed. We have been please with the support from local business communities, and operating out of London City has given workers in and around Canary Wharf a convenient option of travelling by air to Newcastle."
The airline is not impervious to competition though, with its Stansted – Manchester route having been dropped earlier this year following the start of Air Berlin flights on the same route. Roberts said that the route had been withdrawn due to "a significant drop in passenger numbers since the arrival of Air Berlin."
On of the reasons for this is that flights with Eastern Airways are not cheap - when Business Traveller checked this week, a fully flexible day return fare Birmingham - Inverness was £381.90, departing BHX at 0855 and arriving in Inverness at 1035, with the return leg departing at 1635 and arriving in BHX at 1815.
A similar flight departing Cardiff – Newcastle in early May was £307.70, departing Cardiff at 0835 and arriving in Newcastle at 0950, returning at 1700 and arriving back in Cardiff at 1815. Timetables for the Cardiff – Brussels / Aberdeen routes have yet to be finalised, although they should be available for booking online next week. Readers should also note that all tickets with Eastern are non-refundable, although fully flexible tickets can be rebooked for travel up to six months after the original flight date.
Of course the airline has not based its model on the low-cost offering – fully flexible passengers enjoy BA Terrace lounge access when departing Birmingham, Bristol and Newcastle, and fastrack security clearance at certain airports including Southampton and Leeds Bradford. In addition all passengers receive complimentary bar snacks and champagne onboard, and a copy of 'Spectator' magazine.
For more information visit easternairways.com
Report by Mark Caswell