BUSINESS leaders say Emirates airlines' plans to expand at Newcastle Airport is "phenomenal news" for the region's economy.
The firm, which celebrates the fifth anniversary of its services from the North East in September, is set to replace its existing 278-seat Airbus A330 – already the largest passenger plane to fly from the region – with a huge 428- seat Boeing 777.
That means an additional 100,000 people a year could soon be travelling to and from the desert state, or connecting on to do business across Asia and Australasia.
Newcastle International Airport chief executive Dave Laws, said the expanded service, which could mean at least 300 new jobs at the transport hub and in its supply chain, was “a very significant” step for the region.
“Despite challenging economic times, the daily service to Dubai has flourished,” he said.
“The growth of this global brand at the airport will bring employment opportunities and increased cargo-carrying capabilities. This in turn will bring economic benefit, trade and investment to the region.
“It’s very much a sign of confidence in both the North East and in the airport.
“Delivering access to Dubai and beyond on to a global network has had an incredibly positive impact on the business community – it has improved access to markets as well as import and export operations.
“And since Emirates began operating from Newcastle Airport, trade from the North East to Australasia has increased by more than 65%.”
James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, said the Emirates service had already had “a transformational effect on trade” and he was looking forward to the next step.
“The upgrade to this large aircraft on a daily service is a huge sign of confidence in the airport and in the future prospects for the North East economy.”
Despite launching services from Newcastle to Dubai only days before the collapse of Northern Rock and the start of the economic downturn, Emirates have reported growth on the route every year, with the daily flights now on average more than 80% full.
As well as the increased capacity the new Boeing 777 will include 42 lie-flat beds in Business Class and a more modern in- cabin entertainment system.
Leader of Newcastle City Council, Nick Forbes, said the new aircraft was a fantastic opportunity and it was now up to businesses and holidaymakers to prove the company’s faith was well placed.
The new larger plane will be stationed at the airport from September 1.