Comment: EasyJet’s Birmingham move is great news for the region

Kathryn Hayat, University College Birmingham’s Head of Department (Hospitality & Tourism), believes the airport could become an attractive alternative to the Greater London market

It has been an exciting time of late for Birmingham airport with Saudia choosing Birmingham for popular thrice-weekly flights to the Arabian Peninsula tourism destination to watch, and Ryanair’s sixth aircraft added to its airport base both in 2023.

Pegasus Airlines also launched an additional low-cost route to Istanbul at the end of the year. The additional routes and new airlines all contribute to the achievement of wider regional plans to attract business and investment to the West Midlands, away from the capital, and government initiatives to spread growth to all corners of the UK.

The additional routes in and out of Birmingham continue to make the region accessible to leisure and business travellers alike, raising the profile of the city regionally and internationally and often named as a top business destination or top urban destination. Importantly, the raised profile and increased investment has the potential to create hundreds more jobs for the region’s talent.

So, the recent announcement of easyJet’s newly opened base at Birmingham airport, the UK’s third largest, is great news for the city, the region and Birmingham businesses and people alike.

The airline has seen significant growth in recent years both in its flight only and tour operator arm: the latter now the fifth biggest in the UK with goals to be number one, overtaking the likes of the household brands of Tui and Jet2.

Overcoming the challenges left by the Brexit vote and the Covid-19 pandemic, the airline has targeted large-scale growth both in the UK and European markets, at a time when similar low-cost airlines have shrunk or worse folded. As part of this growth, the new base at Birmingham promises 10% more seats on sale this year, with new additional aircraft being added to the fleet and flying out of Birmingham.

Importantly, this investment by easyJet is notable for all regions outside of Greater London, as the airline expands UK operations away from its head office at Luton airport. The central location of Birmingham airport to large parts of the UK makes it attractive to passengers too.

Transport routes to the airport include extensive motorway networks as well as rail connections via the well-connected hub at Birmingham New Street with fast and frequent connections to most major cities. The troubled HS2 high speed railway, planned to revitalise rail transport in this country, has a station planned at Birmingham International to serve Birmingham airport.

This opens up further possibilities for Birmingham airport to become an attractive alternative to the Greater London market, as the location benefits from very similar air travel times to many countries as the capital. If the airport becomes attractive to this wider audience, then more international airlines will follow and utilise capacity at the airport where that does not exist within London.

EasyJet are not alone in the airline world choosing regional airports for new bases and routes. Leeds-Bradford remains the home of Jet2, Ryanair often choose regional over the big commercial hubs (a key factor in keeping fares low) and most recently there have been new routes with Royal Jordanian Airlines from Manchester to Amman the Jordanian capital.

Professionals in the travel and tourism sector in the wider Birmingham area will welcome the news, and as educators at a university where work-based skills are such a fundamental part of the learning process, good quality placements on our doorstep and potential jobs for our graduates is another positive from this news.

Graduates complete their studies at University College Birmingham ready to work in a diverse range of roles across the sector in areas such as flight route operations, ground handling management and a range of management functions. As airlines and airports have stabilised post-pandemic and experienced significant growth, there has been an increase in students applying for both placements and specialist graduate management schemes with airlines such as easyJet and British Airways, airports such as Manchester and Heathrow, as well as big names in aerospace such as GE Aviation and Collins Aerospace.

The investment and growth of the airport, Birmingham and the wider West Midlands region can benefit our students but is also dependent on our students having the skills and knowledge needed and being attracted to stay in the area after graduation.

During my lecturing career, I’ve witnessed the never-failing passion of students working towards a career in aviation and airport management, even during the depths of the pandemic when many airlines were ground for so long.

As a regular user of Birmingham airport for personal travel too, and with over a decade of experience lecturing and managing on Aviation and Airport Management degrees, the investment by easyJet in the airport is great news all round and hopefully the start of more investment to follow.

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