Ryanair is taking a first step to resuming passenger operations at East Midlands Airport (EMA) with a limited schedule of flights beginning on Sunday 21 June.

Passengers arriving into EMA at 15:20 from Alicante will be the first to step inside the airport’s terminal since COVID-19 lockdown measures, introduced in March, brought an abrupt halt to non-essential passenger air travel. The first scheduled departure will be at 15:45 as the same aircraft returns to Alicante.

A total of 16 Ryanair flights to and from EMA are scheduled until the end of June. However, anyone returning to the UK from overseas must quarantine for 14 days and the current Foreign Office advice remains against non-essential travel. If a review of these measures in late June results in an easing of restrictions, passenger airlines operating out of EMA are keen to resume fuller schedules in July.

While most UK airports have seen the number of flights reduce by at least 90% since March, East Midlands (EMA) has continued operating around 60% of all scheduled flights, elevating it briefly to one of Europe’s top 10 busiest airports by flight numbers. This is because of its global express freight operation which is playing an important role in keeping trade moving and facilitating the supply of vital PPE equipment in the fight against COVID-19, as well as more people ordering goods online when shops have been shut.

As parts of the world come out of lockdown, more countries ramping up manufacturing and this is resulting in increased demand for global exports. EMA’s dedicated air cargo operation has come into its own in recent months as a lack of international passenger flights to and from the UK has meant less belly hold capacity for carrying goods. New direct cargo routes to EMA have been launched serving destinations including Hong Kong, Miami and Los Angeles.

However, EMA is both a passenger and cargo airport and looks forward to when passengers can start flying again in large numbers, once the conditions are right to do so.

Few sectors have been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than aviation, travel and tourism. East Midlands Airport is not immune. In the course of one weekend back in March, the airport lost all its main passenger income streams. In response, airport staff were furloughed, and costs, fees and charges have all be re-assessed. Included within a review of car parking prices was the decision to increase rapid drop off (RDO) charges from £3 for 10 minutes to £4 for 15 minutes, when passengers return.

Karen Smart, East Midlands Airport’s Managing Director, says: “I am delighted that we will welcome back our first passengers, even if they are few in number, this coming Sunday. This is a really positive development. I am confident that many people across the region will start using their local airport again for a quick and easy get-away to their favourite holiday destinations when conditions allow. It may take two to three years before passengers return in the numbers we had pre-COVID, but EMA will always continue to be an important gateway for both people and products.”

The first passenger flights in June will provide an opportunity for both the airline and airport to put in place measures to help make air travel safer for both passengers and airport staff.

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