The UK Government has pledged almost £4 million to subsidise an air route between Londonderry and London.
BMI regional has been selected as the preferred operator for the route between City of Derry Airport and Stansted. The airline was chosen following a competitive tender process by Derry City and Strabane District Council.
The £3.8 million state support package comes after Ryanair last year axed its service from City of Derry to Stansted. It is the first Public Service Obligation (PSO) in Northern Ireland to keep a route open.
The Government indicated its intention to offer a PSO last autumn.
Flights will begin on Sunday, March 26 and the Government will fund the route over the 2017/18 and 2018/19 financial years. The new service will include two return flights each day, except for Saturdays which will have one flight each way.
Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon said: “The UK Government has worked closely with Derry City and Strabane District Council to protect this important route to City of Derry Airport.
“£3.8 million UK Government funding will allow 13 return flights to connect Londonderry to London every week. The new service will allow business passengers to get to central London and complete a full day’s work before returning home.”
The funding has been drawn from the Government’s Regional Air Connectivity Fund, which can be used to protect regional air connections to London which may otherwise be lost.
Last year, the Northern Ireland Executive pledged £7 million to help support Londonderry’s troubled airport.