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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 07:47 GMT
Derry flight gets bigger planes
Ryanair plane on the tarmac
Ryanair is the biggest customer at the council-owned airport
Low-cost airline Ryanair is introducing bigger planes on its route between City of Derry Airport and London Stansted.

The company will be flying Boeing 737s which can carry 189 passengers.

However, safety improvements have to be carried out on the runway and until that is done it will only fill 140 seats on the flight.

In October, Ryanair reduced its service to Stansted to once a day saying it had none of the older, smaller aircraft available to cover the morning flight.

Air route

The company warned that unless improvements were made to extend the airport's runway to cope with its newer, larger aircraft, it would consider dropping the service completely.

Ryanair is the biggest customer at the council-owned airport.

The chairman of the airport, councillor John Kerr, said it was an "exceptional step" by the airline to retain the air route.

To complete the extension, the council is faced with the controversial and expensive prospect of buying and knocking down a number of homes.

The council said it remained committed to its development programme.

Before Christmas, Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said he was seeking further clarification before deciding on whether the government will invest millions in the new runway extension.

Opponents of the extension said it would involve evicting families along the Donnybrewer Road, flattening their homes and covering the rubble in concrete.

Environmentalists also warn that increasing passenger numbers through the airport will increase the production of harmful greenhouse gases which contribute to climate change.

City of Derry airport is the only Northern Ireland airport that Ryanair uses, with more than 134,000 passengers in 2003.

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