Jet2's arrival was the latest significant step in Liverpool John Lennon Airport's growth.
In a press conference on Tuesday (May 16), the airline and holiday company shared the news that it will begin operating flights from Liverpool in March 2024. It will offer 20 routes, seven of which will be new to the airport.
The airline's CEO Steve Heapy said the move had been a long time coming. An announcement video shared on social media by the airport showed a deluge of tweets from people begging Jet2 to come to Liverpool over recent years.
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The news was met with joy from many Scousers, who soon will not have to travel to Manchester if they want to fly with Jet2. It also has significant economic ramifications, with at least 200 jobs to be created.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport CEO John Irving told the ECHO that Jet2's arrival was a "special day" and a further step in the right direction for an airport which has welcomed a number of new airlines and has begun to offer many new routes over the past 18 months.
Mr Irving said: "I think it's important for us to get the right mix of destinations. We've got some really strong routes - as we always have done with our other airlines.
"That's great, but we do need a breadth of destinations so that people can choose to come here. For a long time, you could go to your standard destinations but Jet2 bring a new set of them.
"That's good for us, that's good for the passengers, having more choice and more options from Liverpool. That's what we're all about with Jet2 and easyJet and Ryanair."
He added: "We're still in recovery - as an industry, not just as an airport. So it's important for us.
"We've built well this summer, we've got more seats on sale this summer with easyJet and Ryanair. It's important that we keep doing that. We were a five million passenger airport before the pandemic.
"This year we should be about 90% of that. Bringing in new routes, new destinations and new carriers helps us achieve even more and get us not just back to five million but to the size of the airport that we think we should be going forward."
The Jet2 announcement arrived fast on the heels of Aer Lingus' return to the Speke-based airport. The Irish airline's regional operator last month began flying from Liverpool to Dublin, where passengers can connect to flights to the United States.
Similarly, Lufthansa and Icelandic airline PLAY both joined the airport in 2022, offering flights to Frankfurt and Reykjavik respectively. Like Aer Lingus, both airlines offer one-stop international connectivity from Liverpool. Lufthansa will also increase its number of flights from Liverpool this summer.
Long-standing airlines at the airport have expanded their operations in the past year. Ryanair made an $100m increase in its investment at the airport, which saw a 15% rise in flight numbers, another plane based in Speke and 30 jobs created.
easyJet also added a seventh plane to its Liverpool base to support its 2023 plans in a move that created 40 jobs. The budget airline will also offer a new route to Corfu this summer season.
The addition of new airlines and expanded operations from those who have operated from Liverpool shows the airport is delivering on its key priorities, according to Mr Irving.
In December 2022, he told the ECHO: "Our core priorities for the next year will be to bring back more capacity to our partners and find some new ones hopefully. Ryanair and easyJet announced further capacity coming into Liverpool for the summer, so that’s great and that’ll get us closer to the five million passenger mark.
"We want to keep growing and keep doing that and recover that, but it’s about supporting Lufthansa, we’re delighted they’re our connecting partner and to try and grow that and to promote that is a big ticket item for us and for the region.
"Next year is about getting more flights back into the airport. We’ll have more destinations back that we lost through covid and then trying to build on Lufthansa and PLAY.
"Hopefully we’ll be able to find some other partners to come in and take advantage of what we do here - the customer service, the approach of faster, easier, friendlier. Coming out of the pandemic, I think that’s what people are looking for. Airlines are no different, they want to operate in an airport which is efficient.
"We’ll be building connectivity back up and building routes up. But we’re always out there looking for new options and new products that people from the region want."
The reaction to the arrival of Jet2 showed it was a product people in the region clearly wanted, while 200 jobs will deliver a significant economic boost. However, concerns have been raised by some at the increase in flight numbers from the airport during a climate emergency.
Tom Crone, Liverpool's Green Party leader, told the ECHO: "We are in a climate emergency and the only way for Liverpool John Lennon Airport to achieve net zero is to have zero flights which burn fossil fuels.
"As a starting point we should be taxing frequent flyers to discourage the minority who take the most flights, and investing in rail to provide an alternative to short haul flights.
"All organisations should have ambitious net zero plans, but in the case of the air industry there just isn't any measure that can offset the huge amount of fossil fuels they burn. They have to face the reality that reducing activity is their only route to lower emissions."
Liverpool John Lennon Airport will be launching its plans for making its ground operations (not including flights) carbon net-zero this year. The airport states that sustainability is high on its agenda.
In December 2022, Mr Irving told the ECHO: "Our net-zero plan is a big priority for us. Outside of airlines and getting capacity back in, our net zero approach is something that dials up in the next couple of months.
"We will be launching our decarbonisation programme in the new year, which will fall in line with the city region’s timescale, but also ideations. We haven’t launched it yet, but we’ve put a lot of work in, we’ve worked with partners to get a proper, science-based approach of how we get there."
A key part of the airport's plans is the construction of a solar farm on the land bounded by Dungeon Lane, Hale Road and Bailey's Lane on the approach into Hale, which it plans to use as a green source for 25% of its energy. In January 2022, the airport applied to Halton Borough Council to build the solar farm over more than 13 acres of land.
The plans included over 5,000 solar panels, which it said would be an "integral piece in creating a sustainable airport and moving towards decarbonisation by 2040".
However, Halton Council rejected the plans in July. The council's notice of refusal said the airport did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the site formed part of its operational land. The airport insists that it is its land. It is now awaiting the result of an appeal to the planning inspectorate.
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