New holiday destinations have been unveiled for next summer and larger planes introduced this week at Bristol Airport as its passenger numbers continue to climb to record levels.
Holiday giant Thomas Cook is basing two 220-seat Airbus A321 aircraft at the airport to use on its summer services to holiday hotspots – replacing two smaller A320s.
The result is a 20% increase in Thomas Cook’s capacity from Bristol this summer on both holiday and flight-only seats – in recognition, it said, of the airport’s popularity among passengers and punctuality.
The introduction of the first A321, which took off on its inaugural flight to Tenerife today, coincides with rival holiday companies Thomson and First Choice launching ticket sales on four new routes from Bristol for summer 2015, making an additional 21,000 seats available for holidaymakers. They are also to introduce further flights on their existing summer routes.
Pictured: One of Thomas Cook's new Airbus A321s
This year the airport is expected to exceed its previous record passenger numbers of 6.2m achieved in 2008. Last year 6.1m people used the airport – 3.4% higher than in 2012.
Airport chief executive officer Robert Sinclair said: “It’s fantastic news for passengers in our region that Thomas Cook has invested in this additional capacity.
“Last year we had our busiest summer ever and this year we are expecting to see record numbers of passengers. We expect 2014 to be our busiest year ever.”
The A321s will also be used on Thomas Cook’s flights to Bourgas in Bulgaria which, with Tenerife, was introduced last year, while the company has also reinstated flights to Kos.
Thomas Cook has described Bristol Airport as a “jewel in its operation” because of its punctuality statistics. Last summer the airport was the best performing across the Thomas Cook group with more than 90% of its flights on time.
One of the Thomas Cook A321s now based at Bristol is among a batch of six built for the holiday company over the past year by Airbus – with wings designed at the aerospace giant's Filton plant near Bristol and part-built by GKN on the same site. The plane also boasts innovative Bristol-designed 'sharklets' on its wing tips which reduce fuel consumption.
The four new routes to be introduced by Thomson and First Choice are to Santorini in Greece, Pula in Croatia Marrakech in Morocco, and Dubrovnik in Croatia.
The plans also include the addition of further weekly flights on existing routes Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt and Heraklion in Greece, bringing the total destinations on offer from Bristol to 25.
Bristol Airport aviation director Shaun Browne said: “Dubrovnik also adds a fly-cruise option, while additional flights to Sharm el Sheikh and Heraklion offer a wider choice with more flexible stay lengths for passengers across the South West and Wales.”
Last month Bristol Airport announced enhanced links to nearly 250 key destinations across the world as part of a major new agreement between German airline Lufthansa and UK carrier bmi regional.
The code-sharing deal between the airlines will vastly improve onward connections to cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong and Washington from Bristol, allowing it to further compete with London’s airports.
Bristol is the UK’s fifth-largest airport outside London and the ninth-largest in the UK. Work is underway to develop its facilities to handle 10m passengers a year.
- Thomas Cook’s Bristol Programme for summer 2014 includes flights to Lanzarote, Antalya, Bodrum, Burgas, Corfu, Dalaman, Heraklion, Ibiza, Skiathos, Kos, Larnaca, Gran Canaria, Mahon, Enfidha, Majorca, Rhodes, Tenerife and Zante.