UK regional airports lacking direct services to many major European cities this winter

Image: No Newcastle/Prague route
Newcastle International’s slogan “Your Airport” doesn’t apply if you want to travel non-stop this winter to Berlin, Brussels, Madrid, Milan, Prague, Rome or anywhere in Poland (but you can get to Düsseldorf!). Like several other UK regional airports, Newcastle is not as well-connected to major European cities as might be expected (or indeed as it used to be).

In recent years, many of the UK’s regional airports (those outside of London) have benefited greatly from the introduction of low-cost air services to a wide range of domestic and international destinations. However, the majority of international services have been to a combination of leisure destinations or secondary airports.

An analysis of OAG schedule data for November for UK regional airports with a passenger throughput of at least five million passengers in 2008 reveals a number of glaring gaps in the airports’ route portfolios. This is the reason why the world needs The Route Shop. The number of weekly flights to 20 major cities in Europe (plus all of Poland) were identified from nine UK airports; Belfast International, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.


It should be noted that three major EU capital cities (Athens, Lisbon and Vienna) are only served by scheduled services in winter from London area airports. Only Amsterdam and Paris are served from all nine airports, while Dublin is served from eight (the exception being Belfast which is less than 150 kilometres car drive away).

Surprisingly, neither Berlin nor Madrid are served from either Birmingham or Manchester though both destinations are served from Liverpool which shares much of Manchester’s catchment area.

For UK businesses based outside of London (or Manchester) with international clients (or ambitions), the lack of direct services to some of Europe’s major business centres could be considered alarming. Several of the grey squares have had services in recent years. British Airways franchise carrier Maersk Air used to operate several of the ‘missing’ Birmingham routes, while East Midlands lost Copenhagen and Stockholm routes when Sterling collapsed last year. At one point easyJet used to serve Berlin, Budapest, Copenhagen, Prague and Krakow from Newcastle.

Niche business routes still exist

Despite the evidence in the table above several of the UK’s regional airports do have some niche routes that clearly cater to local business needs. Birmingham has daily flights to Gothenburg (with City Airline) and Stuttgart (with Flybe) that are still important for the local vehicle related industries, while Newcastle has recently seen the start of daily (on business days) services to Bergen in Norway with Eastern, which is supported by the local energy industries. From Bristol, there are regular flights to Toulouse with easyJet which links two major Airbus facilities.

With British Airways having pretty much abandoned UK regional airports except for providing feed to its Heathrow hub, regional airports are reliant either on foreign flag carriers (such as Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss), LCCs (such as bmibaby, easyJet, Ryanair, or regional operators (such as City Airline, Eastern, Flybe) to provide connections to major European business centres.


  1. Roger Uren says:

    No mention of Bournemouth!! New terminal under construction. Lost several routes to Poland.Lots of Polish still in this area.Route to Warsaw several times a week (at sensible times!!!) would work. Tomson dropped Prague , another well supported route. Many Swiss would travel to Bournemouth from the Zurich area, good route for Easy as already do Geneva in winter, dont know why they dont do Geneva all year perhaps at a lighter frequency.Bournemouth -Manchester needed (50 seater). Madrid was a winner for Ryanair but they dropped it! More spanish than ever coming to Bournemouth to study so need now greater especialy in the summer. Tripoli is another route needed once a week. Big Libyan poplulation in town.

  2. Malkie says:

    Wow!! The shocker is GLA: it’s basically non-existant on the map! For one of the largest cities outside of London, it’s a bit of a surprise.

    Looks like EDI has basically taken over 90% of the Scottish- European traffic…….

  3. Roger Uren says:

    just to add local surveyors for the new terminal (Warr PLC) have opened an office in Tripoli as have several projects on going in Libya.Tourism bound to open up the country further.Likewise several local companiesin Bournemouth owed by Libyans!

  4. Tim says:

    Trying to get back and forth to Prague from the north of England is a nightmare now ! And I live in Prague so its not as if I’m just flying over for a weekend jolly.

    Jet2 no longer flys from Blackpool to Prague. CSA ( Czech Airlines) have stopped the Prague – Manchester route. Wizzair only fly from Liverpool twice a week, and as for bmibaby, their new timetable doesnt have flights 3 days during the week and the flights they do have land after 10pm in one direction and after midnight going back to the UK.

    Easyjet are pulling out of East Midlands.

    So it ends up that I have to travel to London.

    Although it pays to look around. With bmibaby having cr*p flight slots it meant a taxi to and from Manchester airport. This then adds 60-70GBP to the flight price.

    Then on top of that add extra money for bags, the fact that you have bags means you have to do airport check in which also costs,,,,say hello to the check in girl and thats a tenner !

    So my flight was going to be 160GBP not inc taxi. A quick scan about online and I saw that I could fly PRG-MCR via Zurich with Swiss Air for 150GBP !! Ok so its an extra 90 minutess on teh journey but its 20kg not 15kg, free drink/snack on board. And the landing times at each end are mid afternoon so the 60GBP for a taxi is not needed.

    But yes….its still a nightmare flying from Prague to the North of England

  5. J Hield says:

    This just shows how out of touch the planners are. The UK’s third largest city, Leeds (population 715,000) has an airport with access to over 70 destinations but it is not even shown as one of the airports lacking direct flights to European cities. replies: Our cut-off point for the airports five million annual passengers. In 2008 Leeds/Bradford airport handled 2.86 million. Check out our more recent “Airport analysis” on LBA here:

  6. Jon says:

    Glasgow International’s selection of European cities is shocking with just six cities on the continent served daily. This is something BAA fail to acknowledge and part of the reason the Competition Commission are forcing them to sell the airport. It was found that BAA had “encouraged” European airlines to fly to EDI, instead of GLA.

    We also need to remember Glasgow has two international airports. Glasgow Prestwick is linked with high frequency flights to 32 European cities.

    J Hield; lets get real. Leeds is not the third biggest city in the UK. Leeds boundaries are hugely exaggerated and in reality; Birmingham, Glasgow and Manchester are more than double the size of Leeds.

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