September 2021 -Steve Frazer, Managing Director at City of Derry Airport

Provide a description of your Tourism offering.

City of Derry Airport (CoDA) has been the gateway for the Northwest for over 40 years, providing the Derry City & Strabane, Causeway Coast & Glens and Donegal districts with connectivity to key UK and European hubs. Nestled just 10 minutes from Derry/Londonderry and 11 miles from County Donegal, the airport is ideally located where the world-famous Causeway Coastal Route meets the breath-taking Wild Atlantic Way for inbound visitors who want to explore.

With a catchment of over 500,000 people already making 3.5M journeys per year, CoDA provides the opportunity to fly local and enjoy a safe, friendly and convenient travel experience.

Describe how the Summer 2021 season has been for your business?

Summer 2021 has been very positive with high load factors over 87%. As travel restrictions eased, we saw an increasing demand for short breaks on our Loganair services to London Stansted, Liverpool and Glasgow, a growth in tourists visiting from GB keen to explore the local tourism offerings and an increasing demand from the VFR market.

List five things that were different for you in the high season post covid pandemic.

1) There is an increased demand within our region to fly local, avoiding the inconvenience of increased travel time, shared transport and additional costs.

2) Changing market trends, particularly in the corporate sector where hybrid working patterns are here to stay, indicate a substantial growth of people relocating back to rural areas and in particular within our catchment area and are now commuting from CoDA.

3) With international travel restrictions in place, this gave an opportunity to showcase our local tourism offerings to a new audience visiting from GB and we look forward to many returning for a repeat experience.

4) We have noted a change in passenger attitudes, with a preference towards a user-friendly airport like CoDA that offers a convenient single level terminal and short car park to gate experience with a limited number of passengers travelling through at one time.

5) There were also increasingly positive views with regards to aircraft preferences, with many passengers feeling reassured by the configuration of the 2/1 seating on our Loganair UK services

Based on these experiences, what have you learned to do differently?

We have significantly increased engagement with our industry partners and stakeholders to ensure we understand and monitor the needs of our catchment area. Currently, there is a high number of corporate passengers & commuters who rely on CoDA for essential travel and an increasing appetite for leisure travel destinations.

What are your hopes for 2022?

Our core objectives are, improving connectivity to key UK & European hubs, and to strengthen our frequency on key business routes in support of the North West’s regional development plans. With the City Deal and Inclusive Future Fund, we hope that CoDA, as a key component of the North West economy, will also benefit and be well equipped to serve the growing demand from the local catchment area, within the wider strategic growth plan.

Maintaining the benefits of regional connectivity does require some support. We remain expectant that our island geography will be recognized by the pending recommendations in the Union Connectivity review, we also expect an appropriate APD reduction to reflect that one in four passengers from / to an NI postcode in 2019 used Dublin airport where zero APD is charged, instead of our own airports. Both these will give a more level playing field to be competitive and an opportunity for a Northern Ireland specific route development initiative specific to the roles our three airports serve, which will deliver sustained benefits to the wider NI Economy.

We are continuing to attract new routes and partners, having recently launched two new summer sun destinations for 2022, demonstrating the confidence in the market. Bookings are strong and our Tour Operator holds consumer protection with a CAR and ATOL license, providing passengers with complete reassurance when booking.

We look forward to working closely with our airlines, travel agents, tour operators and industry partners to accelerate the growth and recovery of the sector in 2022.