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Member News: Airporter confident of strong air travel bounce back as company celebrates 25th anniversary

The directors of North West-based bus company Airporter have said they expect a strong recovery for air travel as Covid restrictions unwind, with pent-up demand from people eager to travel again driving business.

The company, which is celebrating 25 years in business this October, is back to around 60% of its pre-pandemic levels of trade already. With rules on Covid-19 testing for international travel due to relax in Northern Ireland for fully vaccinated arrivals from non-red list countries from Monday 4 October, Airporter directors Jennifer and Niall McKeever are optimistic about the short to medium term prospects for the sector.

Airporter runs a regular direct service from Derry~Londonderry to both Belfast airports and provides a vital transport link for the people of the North West.

Opening in 1996 with just two drivers, two buses and around 5,000 customers a year, the company now carries 150,000 passengers annually, has a staff of 30, and a fleet of Mercedes coaches. In 2018, the company invested £1 million in a custom-built headquarters in Springtown, to futureproof the organisation for growth and development. 

Airporter continues to go from strength to strength and, currently, the company is well on its way to carrying 2 million passengers. The company has completed over 100,000 journeys and plays a huge role in improving connectivity to and from the North West region.

Jennifer McKeever, Director, Airporter:

“The pandemic has, of course, been a huge challenge for the wider travel and tourism industry but we’ve weathered the storm well and we’re pleased to be operating at around 60% of our pre-pandemic levels. We’re excited and optimistic about the bounce back of the industry as vaccine levels rise and people get back travelling again. We’ve already seen a positive return to trade during the summer with people eager to get back on holiday again and with students going to university across the water.

“We’re so proud to have reached this hugely significant milestone and of everything we’ve achieved over the past 25 years. When we set out in 1996, there was no formal or reliable transport link between the North West and the two Belfast airports, and we had just two small buses. Now, we carry over 150,000 passengers annually. We’re privileged to be so many people’s first choice for travelling to and from the North West – people going to work, students going to university, families reuniting, visitors coming to the North West.

“I’d like to thank all of our customers for their support and loyalty over the past 25 years, all of our staff and colleagues who have worked with us on our journey, both Belfast International and Belfast City Airports for their ongoing partnerships with us, and the people of Derry and the North West for supporting us.”

Niall McKeever, Director, Airporter:

“As the infrastructure in the North West continues to improve all the time, we are hugely optimistic about the future. The completion of the A6 dualling project, scheduled for next Spring 2022, is not just a potential gamechanger for Airporter, but also for the North West economy. Improved connectivity between our region and other leading economic hubs across the UK and Ireland will bring increased investment, more jobs, and greater prosperity for the North West.

“Looking forward, decarbonisation and sustainability will become even more of a key priority for Airporter. The transport sector has a real opportunity to lead the way in terms of meeting our net zero goals and transitioning to more climate friendly and carbon neutral ways of doing business. We are conscious of the challenges ahead of us, but we are excited about meeting them head on over the next 25 years.

“A quarter of a century is a fantastic achievement for any business to reach. Airporter was born out of a need to serve the local community here in the North West and we remain absolutely committed to Derry and beyond. We have developed a recognisable and successful brand during this period, as well as creating and sustaining a crucial infrastructural link between our region and the two Belfast airports, and we want to thank everyone who has supported us since 1996.”