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Eastern Airways to stop Gib flights for winter

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

Six months after Eastern Airways announced flights to the Rock from both Southampton and Birmingham, the company has confirmed it is pulling out of Gibraltar – at least for the winter.

In line with many operators of services throughout Europe, Eastern Airways will suspend its winter schedule and restart in March 2022 for the summer season.

Eastern Airways will operate its last outbound flight to the southern coast of the UK on October 11, followed a number of days later by a suspension of flights to the Midland city.

On May 25 this year the first flight from Southampton landed in Gibraltar, followed four days later by the first flight from Birmingham for the airline.

The Gibraltar Government said it had worked with the airline to assess passenger loads on the new service since their launch.

“It was noted that it had been a very difficult time to start the two new routes to Birmingham and Southampton given the ongoing impacts on travel related to Covid in particular,” No.6 Convent Place said.

Roger Hage, General Manager of Eastern Airways, said: “It has been a difficult decision to take but all airlines are adjusting their flying programs depending on the demand into winter.”

“Covid restrictions has made this even more unpredictable.”

“We also have to ensure the sustainability implications and act responsibly to ensure the routes to Gibraltar work long-term.”

“In adopting a seasonal approach this year achieves this and ensures long-term considerations apply.”

“We will continue to work proactively with the Gibraltar Government on the summer schedule for 2022.”

Tourism Minister Vijay Daryanani said it was disappointing to have fewer routes for the winter season, but that the wider context was crucial.

“Eastern Airways want to come back next summer,” he said.

“They need to protect their finances like any other business and I back their judgement.”

“Having said this, our capacity for the winter months is excellent as British Airways has agreed to increase flights.”

“This means we actually have more seats to the UK even after this suspension.”

“I will continue working with Eastern Airways and look forward to welcoming them back in the summer.”

For its part, the GSD said the annnouncement was “disappointing and unwelcome” news.

“This development comes in the wake of the other bad news received with respect to the non-arrival or ending of the much-celebrated Volotea and Whizz air flights,” said a statement from the party.

“None of these developments are good for Gibraltar but they clearly confirm the GSD Opposition’s previous warnings that their arrivals had less to do with the Minister for Tourism’s self-proclaimed success and more to do with the effects of the pandemic on the airline industry,” the statement said.

“These flights came at a particular time of the pandemic’s evolution – Gibraltar was a safe destination as compared to others which were the subject of travel restrictions.”

Shadow Minister for Tourism, Damon Bossino, said it was “a pity” the demand appeared not to be there for Gibraltar as a destination for these particular routes and that Gibraltar had been unable to capitalise on these new connections.

Mr Bossino had questioned the minister’s “silence” on the development, but Mr Daryanani responded just a few hours later.

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