Belfast could be base for TV star's new airline
Jeremy Spake, star of TV programmes including Airport and Child-ren's Hospital, is starting up his own airline and could be flying from Belfast this time next year.
Mr Spake was in Belfast yesterday having talks with management at Belfast International Airport. He said Belfast is one of four bases in the UK and Europe where he is considering flying from.
If Belfast is chosen, Mr Spake revealed that his airline could restart services between Alder-grove and Heathrow and possibly fly to a number of new European destinations.
The name of the new airline is not being revealed yet but he says the project is well advanced.
Mr Spake, who is the managing director of the company, said he hopes to be in a position to launch before the end of the year and start flying by the end of March 2004.
Speaking to the Irish News he said: "Belfast clearly has a need for more services. We are examining whether Belfast as a base is a viable option.
"And if it is a viable option we will select the routes to which we would want to fly to from here.
"Heathrow is clearly one of the options that we have open to us as is Paris, Amsterdam, Bar-celona, Malaga and others."
Mr Spake said he wasn't revealing too much at this stage because he wanted to keep the competition guessing.
He said: "Our product will be different. I am not prepared to tell you how but it will be different."
However, he did say that he was not creating another low cost airline like easyJet or Ryanair.
He said the airline would stick to main airports and that operations could include inter-lining agreements with other carriers with worldwide connections.
Mr Spake said that using smaller airports, often with poor bus and rail connections, was "a bit of a nonsense".
"Mr O'Leary, God love him, makes no bones about what he's doing and that's fine. It's not for us. I just think that if you are flying someone to Stockholm you take them to Arlanda, which at least gives them a fighting chance of getting into the centre without a 15-day camel trek."
Mr Spake conceded that the airline industry was going through a difficult period. However, he said the tide was turning and the time was ripe to start a new airline.
"The airline industry is on the turn. Unless something severe happens in the next eight to nine months, the industry is in recovery. That's evident by the lease rates on aircraft. The industry is ready for change.
"'We are seeing the opportunity to start an airline from a very low cost base but not necessarily a low cost service and do it very well."
He indicated there was some significant investors already behind the project but that more were being sought.