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Energy leaders say BMI’s choice to scrap Norwich route could hurt sector

A BMI Regional Embraer 135 prepares for take-off at Norwich Airport. The carrier's owner says the aftermath of the terror attack in Brussels in March 2016 hit its bottom line
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 Picture: Adam Scorey.

A BMI Regional Embraer 135 prepares for take-off at Norwich Airport. The carrier's owner says the aftermath of the terror attack in Brussels in March 2016 hit its bottom line . Picture: Adam Scorey.

Energy industry leaders have hit out at the decision by a regional airline to stop its flights between Norwich and Aberdeen, leaving only one carrier flying the route.

The move by BMI Regional, which will run its final flight between the cities on February 11, comes at a time of resurgence in the oil and gas industry in the North Sea after years of hardship for many companies.

The route was primarily used by businesspeople in the energy sector to shuttle between the East Anglian and east Scottish coasts, who have said losing the route could impact negatively on companies’ expansion plans in East Anglia – a destination which also gives easy access to Germany and Denmark.

BMI said it took the decision to stop the route as it had become commercially inviable.

Simon Gray, chief executive of East of England Energy Group (EEEGR), was “surprised” that BMI had “not taken a longer-term view”.

He said the high volume of registrations for the group’s SNS2018 conference and exhibition were testament to the growing strength of the oil and gas industry, which relies on a connection up the east coast.

A number of energy businesses, including some in the growing offshore wind sector, have operations and projects in Scotland and East Anglia.

Mr Gray said: “While things are not wonderful they are better than they have been for a number of years so it seems strange they would choose to do this without any consultation with industry.

“We know there is going to be increased activity in the Southern North Sea in the coming year.”

He added: “Looking into the near future, I would suggest things will improve. Whether it will improve substantially enough to justify investment in the route is another matter.”

A spokesman for Norwich Airport said: “We are not in a position to speculate further about BMI Regional’s decision to cancel its flight from Norwich to Aberdeen. However, we are pleased that Eastern Airways will operate the route via Flybe franchise, protecting passengers who rely on the service.

“We know how important services linking Norwich to other parts of the UK are to local businesses and the regional economy, as passenger numbers continue to rise year-on-year. We expect this trend to continue.”

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