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Business & Economy

Emirates’ daily Dubai flight from Newcastle International Airport ‘will happen’ again, says boss

A flagship service connecting the North East with the Middle East will return to daily operations in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, a carrier boss has said.

Richard Jewsbury, Emirates’ UK divisional vice president, told North East Times Magazine he “expects” a resumption of pre-health crisis flight levels between Newcastle International Airport and Dubai “will happen” again soon.

Daily services on the blue ribbon route were a staple of the airport’s itinerary but were grounded when the pandemic struck.

Flights have resumed today (October 15), in the guise of four weekly services but Richard, who revealed the airline is committed to “building back” alongside airport chiefs to deliver “good times ahead”, says he believes that number could quickly rise as Government travel restrictions ease.

He also confirmed the resumption will deliver a bumper trade boost for the region, with Emirates’ first flight to Dubai carrying more than 18 tonnes of freight that includes pharmaceutical goods and equipment, with more set to follow.

He said: “Pre COVID-19, we had a daily Dubai flight and that is what we want to get back to – and expect to get back to.

“It’s a timing issue as markets reopen and people start moving again.

“We saw a dramatic reduction in the red list in the Government’s last review and that is certainly stimulating demand and traffic out of the UK.

“Some overseas markets are constrained and difficult to access – Australia and New Zealand were historically two important markets out of Newcastle, for example.

“At the moment, they are difficult to get into, but the expectation is that over the next six months they will open up and that will increase demand for the services to Newcastle and together with other markets and the easing of restrictions, I’d expect to be able to build back to a daily flight.

“When I don’t know, because it’s not under our control, but that remains the ambition and I’m sure we will get there.”

Richard said the flights’ return will also deliver a timely impact on the North East’s export market, as the fallout from Britain’s EU divorce continues.

He added: “I’ve always considered air connectivity as being an economic multiplier, and the ease of moving people and goods is especially important post-Brexit.

“The Government has been very open about two of its key strategies.

“One is the regional levelling-up agenda, which I think we play well with, because we are embedded in the regions and directly support them, and the other is the Government’s stated Global Britain agenda.

“We are an island trading nation, so competing on a global stage is really important, and I think that is where we have a role to play through our hub at Dubai and the global network we offer, which includes Newcastle.

“If you look at the stats around what was going through Newcastle in 2006, which was the year before we started operations at the airport, cargo exports were about £20 million.

“Roll forward ten years to 2016 and they were more than £300 million, having been heavily supported by Emirates alongside other airlines.

“Such air freight capability is enormously important to the North East economy.”

And Richard also said a change to flight departures from the region – the carrier has switched take-offs from lunchtimes to evenings – will strengthen leisure demand, with passengers now able to navigate the long-haul flight overnight.

He added: “It is more convenient for holidaymakers to travel that way as they can go straight to their hotel and then have a nice daylight flight on the way back.

“We expect to see that help with growth in terms of holiday traffic.”

Responding to the restarting of journeys between the region and the Middle East, Graeme Mason, Newcastle International Airport’s planning and corporate affairs director, described it as a “major milestone” in the base’s ongoing recovery from the pandemic.

He said: “Emirates’ Dubai services are iconic for this airport and they complement fantastically our other hub connections, which include British Airways into Heathrow, KLM into Amsterdam, Air France into Paris and our new link to Frankfurt with Lufthansa.

“That suite provides excellent global connectivity for this region.

“Our aero team has maintained excellent relationships with Emirates right the way through the pandemic and everyone here is absolutely delighted to see Emirates return.”

Reiterating Richard’s points on the services’ strong business connectivity and its valuable freight provision, Graeme too highlighted the reopening of markets including Australia and New Zealand, which he said will provide a positive knock-on effect for the airport.

He said: “The Dubai service was a game-changer for the North East when it arrived in 2007 because it put this region on the global route map.

“The timing of its resumption is great too, what with Dubai opening up again and the delayed Expo 2020 taking place.

“I’m also expecting to see a lot of people using the flights in the coming weeks to meet friends and family, who they’ve not been able to meet for a long time – it promises to be emotional down at the arrivals gate!

“And that, ultimately, is what connectivity is all about.”

  • See November’s North East Times Magazine for more on Emirates’ Dubai flights plans and its relationship with Newcastle International Airport