Winter boost for LBA

Budget airline, Ryanair, has added routes from Leeds-Bradford Airport to four destinations on the continent – Barcelona in Spain, Dusseldorf in Germany, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, and Gdansk in Poland. The airline hopes that the new flights will sustain 1,000 jobs in West Yorkshire.

At the end of June, Ryanair’s outspoken CEO, Michael O’Leary, was vocal in his praise for Leeds-Bradford, after the airport cut its landing fees and passenger taxes. The Irishman claimed that Leeds was following the example set by airports in Holland, Spain, and Belgium, by making air travel cheaper for both airlines and customers.

The UK, on the other hand, has made its aviation industry suffer, according to O’Leary. ‘For an island nation to be taxing tourists at a time when Europe is making travel cheaper is insanely stupid.’ The executive was referring to the UK’s Air Passenger Duty, which places an £11 charge on every airline seat.

Leeds-Bradford is one of just two UK hubs to have experienced growth in the past year, alongside Scottish hub, Edinburgh. The two airports are also the only Ryanair bases to have avoided a cull of winter flights. The airline has cut 16% of its seasonal flights from the UK, and sent the extra planes to European bases.

Ryanair claims that its new routes from Leeds, in combination with the eleven winter routes already offered by the airline, will attract one million passengers a year to the West Yorkshire hub. The number of flights available is a direct contrast to winter 2009, when Ryanair had just three flights out of Leeds-Bradford.

Both airport and airline expressed their ‘delight’ at the development. Tickets for Ryanair’s new routes are already on sale.

Burning plane overshoots runway

Flights out of Leeds-Bradford Airport were halted for two hours on Monday 7 June, after a private jet burst into flames and overshot the runway. The plane, a Cessna Citation, was expected in France later that day, but wound up smouldering by a perimeter fence.

The incident is one of several to occur at Leeds Bradford Airport in the last 30 years. In 1985, a British Midland Airways – better known as budget airline, BMI – plane skidded off the runway during wet weather. Then, in 2005, an aeroplane owned by defunct Spanish carrier, LTE, lost its brakes during landing. The plane eventually landed safely, albeit in a field to the side of the runway.

Fortunately, very few people have died in accidents at Leeds-Bradford, and Monday’s incident was no exception: both the pilot and co-pilot were hauled from the wreckage by a Yorkshire fire crew, escaping with minor injuries. Airport bosses have opened a full investigation into the mishap, however.

The West Yorkshire Fire Brigade explained that the plane’s starboard engine had caught fire during takeoff. The brigade’s website indicates that fire engines attended from three different towns – Idle in Bradford, and Cookridge and Rawdon in Leeds. The airport was closed to traffic from 17.50 to 20.00, while crews worked to remove the wreckage.

The fire brigade is not the only emergency service with links to Leeds Bradford; the Yorkshire Air Ambulance was recently offered discounted landing fees by airport bosses, in a bid to keep the charity’s yellow helicopters at the site for another year. Tony Hallwood, director at Leeds, professed to be ‘committed’ to local charities.

Free hold bags for Jet2 passengers

Even the most disciplined of travellers can find it difficult to get everything they need, even for a short break, into the small piece of luggage permitted as carry-on baggage these days. However, many people are loathe to end up paying more in charges for “optional extras” than they have paid for the actual airfare.

There are of course certain things which you cannot help having to fork out for, such as Ryanair’s charge for checking-in online (hardly an option now that it is not possible to check in at the airport), but baggage is a contentious issue.

It was good news therefore when Jet2 announced their offer last week for free check-in baggage, up to 22kg, for passengers travelling between May and October from Leeds Bradford, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle and Blackpool airports to a range of European destinations – a saving of almost £20 for a return trip.

Jet 2 are unusual amongst the low-cost carriers in offering allocated seating, so for those of us who are fed up with the scrum that takes place on certain budget airlines, even on occasions when Speedy Boarding passes have been purchased, this would seem to be a distinct advantage.

The airline offers flights to a large number of European destinations as well as New York. The Jet2 boss, Philip Meeson, said that city breaks are becoming more popular than ever, and certainly with the latest offer on free baggage his customers will be able to enjoy the shopping opportunities at their destination as well as the cultural highlights.

Ryanair opens new Leeds base

has opened a new base at Leeds Bradford Airport, sparking another war of words with resident airline, Jet2.

Leeds is Ryanair’s 34th hub in the world, and the airline’s only active base in Yorkshire, following its desertion of Robin Hood Airport in August last year. The carrier claims that its total investment will exceed £90m, and sustain more than 1000 jobs, both at the airport and in the surrounding towns and cities.

Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, is not known for his people skills, but his business philosophy is admirable. Ryanair has expanded at a prodigious rate since its birth in 1985, cornering a large majority of the British holiday market, and carrying more passengers per year than EasyJet, its bitter rival.

The airline’s new Leeds base will offer 14 new routes to continental Europe, in addition to the three that Ryanair already operates from the airport. The routes include Dublin, Ibiza, Krakow, and the walled city of Carcassonne in southern France. Ryanair intends to keep its destinations affordable, warning of ‘like-for-like’ price cuts if Jet2 begins to offer cheaper flights.

‘We don’t see Jet2 as competition.’ Ryanair’s Stephen McNamara explained. ‘It’s a relatively small company, but if Jet2 come out with a spring sale with 50% off flights then we will match that.’ Airport bosses noted that the two airlines are not in direct competition, as only half of the new routes are served by both carriers.

The airline hopes to attract 1m passengers a year to its new base.

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New route targets ‘Yorkshire skiers’

Skiers and snowboarders in the region of Leeds Bradford Airport have been granted a reprieve from Yorkshire’s snow-less peaks, with the announcement of a new route from Leeds to Sofia, Bulgaria. Flights will be operated by Balkan Holidays, a British outfit specialising in trips to Eastern Europe.

The route is marketed at winter sports fans who might be planning a holiday for the 2010/11 skiing season. Balkan Holidays already claims two Bulgarian destinations from Leeds: Bourgas, on the west coast of the Black Sea, and the nearby resort of Varna. But the new route to Sofia will allow the firm to sell holidays at three extra resorts.

Pamporovo, in the far south of Bulgaria, and Bansko and Borovet in the east, are easily accessible from Sofia, despite their relatively bleak locations. The three resorts are open between December and April every year. Balkan Holidays is currently offering packages from £222, with the first plane departing on March 19th 2011.

Airport boss Tony Hallwood was keen to attract local people to the new route, claiming that for a non-Euro destination "Bulgaria is particularly attractive, offering excellent value for money". He added that "this is great news for skiers". Balkan Holidays also sells packages for resorts in Serbia, Slovenia and Romania.

In similar news, Leeds-based airline Jet2 helped save a number of prominent figures from delays caused by the recent British Airways strike. Racing driver Damon Hill, Prince William and everybody’s favourite pugilist, Mike Tyson, were helped to their destinations by Jet2 planes on loan to BA.

Residents fear traffic hell

Plans to improve lighting in a tunnel beneath Leeds Bradford Airport could have troubling consequences for the village of Carlton, Leeds.

The project, which began on the 4th January, is an essential part of city caretaking, but local residents are concerned that a river of heavy traffic could be diverted through suburban areas of Leeds.

Carlton is located to the northwest of the airport, and experiences high volumes of traffic on a daily basis, despite being little more than a rural hamlet. Villagers have already voiced criticisms about the speed of vehicles passing through the Carlton crossroads.

Local councillors were apologetic – “We are confident that the measures we are putting in place will keep disruption to a minimum. The works will be carried out as safely and quickly as possible.”

The affected tunnel is 200m long, and forms part of Victoria Avenue, an extension of the busy A658 road, which serves Bradford in the southwest. The works will replace the existing safety lights with energy efficient bulbs, requiring less maintenance.

Planners have earmarked a full ten weeks for the completion of the project. Lanes will be closed at off-peak times, after the morning rush hour, then through the night until 4:30am. The airport itself will not be affected by the closures, but be wary of congestion in the local area.

Earlier this week, Leeds Bradford Airport was closed while ice and snow was cleared from the runway. Extra flights have been made available for customers affected by delays, but bosses request all customers check with their airline before departing.

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Leeds Bradford hoping for daily flights to New York

Residents of Yorkshire, wishing to fly to New York, may no longer have far to travel if bosses at Leeds Bradford Airport succeed in their new campaign. Project America has recently been launched and seeks to attract an American airline to the airport, with the aim of introducing a daily flight to New York by 2015.

This would of course not only benefit travellers in the region but would also create 400 new jobs and inject £10 million into the local economy. Half a million passengers per year have to travel from Yorkshire to other airports to fly across the Atlantic, and Leeds Bradford Commercial Director, Tony Hallwood, believes that it is crucial to “capture this market for both leisure and business travellers”.

According to preparatory research, America is the most popular long haul destination which is not currently served by services in the region. With flights to New York hopefully on the horizon, passengers would be able to connect with flights to other popular destinations, such as Florida, California, Canada and the Caribbean.

Mr Hallwood added that there are 750 American businesses in Yorkshire and that with a decent transatlantic service available on the doorstep further growth and investment in the region would follow. It would also raise Leeds’ status as a “core city” and the profile of Yorkshire as a whole.

Bosses at Leeds Bradford are also looking into the reinstatement of a public transport link from York to the airport. The head of York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said that in order to attract more tourists and businesses to the region all the “building blocks of transport” had to be in place.

Flybe launches early summer roster

has announced its early-summer timetable from Leeds-Bradford Airport, allowing customers to book next year’s holiday months in advance.

Founded in 1979 as Jersey European Airways, Flybe claims to be the UK’s number one domestic airline, offering over 130 flights from Leeds-Bradford alone.

The carrier is keen to promote its Easter and Bank Holiday routes before larger airlines get their teeth into the public.

Routes to Italy, Germany, and France make up the continental half of Flybe’s 2010 roster, and UK tourists can also choose from a number of domestic destinations including Belfast and Aberdeen. Officials have reported ‘brisk interest’ from holidaymakers and business folk alike.

Flybe continues to carve out a niche as a budget business carrier, claiming many critical business customers on the route to London Gatwick.

Beginning in October, the airline will increase its commitment to the capital by offering an additional flight from Leeds-Bradford to Gatwick, as public interest in the route begins to soar.

Early birds can now depart at 0700 – two hours earlier than the previous Leeds-London flight.

“We recognise this route as being of crucial importance.” Mike Rutter, Officer at Flybe, explained. “We advise people to book early to take advantage of the lowest fares possible on this popular route.”

Flybe’s new flights cost between £23 and £26 for a one-way trip, all taxes included. The airline has promised to maintain the timetable until June 30th 2010.

Price war at Leeds Bradford

Budget carrier, Ryanair, has announced that it will be launching 14 new routes out of Leeds Bradford airport, following news that the airport is to have a £28 million makeover.

Plans were unveiled on 11 Aug for new routes to the French cities of Carcassonne, Montpellier, Limoges and Nantes, the Spanish cities of Malaga, Murcia and Palma, the Italian cities of Pisa and Venice plus Knock in Ireland, the island of Malta, Krakow in Poland, Faro in Portugal, and the Balearic island of Ibiza. This was greeted as good news, not only for holidaymakers in the north of England but also for job seekers in West Yorkshire who were promised the creation of around a thousand new jobs.

Not everyone is happy though, with the Irish airline being accused of muscling in on routes already being operated by Leeds based airline Jet2 and it seems a price war is bound to follow.

Michael O’Leary, head of Ryanair, said that he had chosen Leeds Bradford airport for his latest base because it does not currently have any low cost carriers operating out of it. He went on to say that there are a couple of carriers “masquerading as low cost…..but it is a fact to say that they charge high fares”. The carriers which he was thought to be referring to are Jet2 and flybe.

Philip Meeson of Jet2 responded by pointing out that Ryanair have so many hidden extras in their fares that it works out as an extremely expensive option, especially for families who need to check in luggage.

Tickets are already on sale for Ryanair’s new routes and the new base at Leeds Bradford will open in Mar 2010.

With this new competition on many routes it will be interesting to see just how low fares go.

Plans to expand Leeds Bradford approved amidst environmental dismay

Leeds City Council has given the thumbs up to an ambitious plans to expand the Leeds Bradford airport after a four and a half hour meeting last month. The plans had originally been turned down in April on the grounds that better transport links had to be established but, having listened to a report from the planners, the council was satisfied that a lot of work had been done to address environmental concerns and the scheme was approved.

It is estimated that the expansion will cost £28 million and will involve a doubling in size of the airport and create up to 2,000 new jobs. Under the plans the security zone will be extended, the immigration and retail areas improved, and a new departure lounge constructed.

The regional airport currently sees some 3,000 passengers per year but it is estimated that as a result of the improvements this will increase to 5,000 by 2013.

The Chief Executive of the airport, John Parkin, said he was delighted by the approval and that it was “really good news for the people of this region”. Residents in West Yorkshire will be pleased to know that by 2013 they will be less likely to have to travel to Manchester airport to take a long haul flight.

Not everyone, however, is pleased and concerns have been voiced by environmental campaigners who held a demonstration outside the Civic Hall, whilst the Council debated the issue. A spokesman said that he was very disappointed with the decision and that the expansion would lead to traffic congestion, noise for local residents and higher carbon emissions in the future.