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Birmingham aims to regain transatlantic flights by 2020

Birmingham airport may have to wait until 2020 to regain transatlantic services after Primera cancelled its flights to Newark, Boston and Toronto from the UK gateway this summer.

Speaking to FlightGlobal at the World Routes show in Guangzhou today, Tom Screen, Birmingham’s acting aviation director, says there might be an "option" for an alternative airline to start a New York service in summer 2019. He says it is "more likely", however, that such connections will come in 2020 when JetBlue is likely to receive deliveries of Airbus A321LRs and WestJet is also expected to be in a position to start a Toronto-Birmingham service.

Primera originally announced services from Birmingham to Newark, Boston and Toronto for May 2018, but subsequently cancelled its Boston plan before it was launched. Flights to Newark and Toronto were suspended in June.

Screen says Birmingham’s passenger numbers for 2018 will be "slightly down" on those of 2017 as a result of the collapse of UK short-haul carrier Monarch Airlines in October 2017. The airport is forecasting it will handle 12.5 million passengers this year compared with just under 13 million in 2017.

He says the UK airport has been able to replace approximately 70% of the capacity that was lost, with Jet2 and TUI substituting the bulk of services along with Ryanair. He says the airport has deliberately not sought to replace all of the lost flights.

"We took a decision with our shareholders that replacing all of the lost Monarch traffic that we had was probably the wrong thing to do because there is a reason why Monarch went out of business – because there was too much capacity in the market," he says.

Simon Richards, acting chief executive of Birmingham airport, says the drop in passenger numbers has allowed Birmingham to focus on improving the standard of its customer services.

He says the "most tangible change" has been in the security checking process, where a new preparation area has been added. The airport has also begun a £50 million ($65 million) terminal expansion programme.

Screen and Richards say Birmingham airport expects to see its passenger numbers rebound to 13 million in 2019 as a result of additional capacity offered by Jet2 and TUI next summer, and the increase in Turkish Airlines' frequencies to Istanbul from 12 a week now to 14 a week.

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