Touch Down: Eastern Airways Begins New Newquay-Gatwick PSO

First flights are always exciting, especially if they’re celebrated and different. That’s what happened on December 15th, when regional UK carrier Eastern Airways’ inaugural service departed Cornwall Newquay Airport for London Gatwick. It also used sustainable aviation fuel. The author was aboard to join in the celebration.

Eastern Airways Gatwick
Eastern Airways now has the PSO between Newquay and Gatwick. The ATR-72-600 is already fuel-efficient (relative to jets) and uses sustainable aviation fuel. Photo: obtained via Emerald Media.

What’s happening?

There’s no denying it. With about 200,000 round-trip passengers in 2019, Newquay to London is a crucial market for the Cornish airport. Isolated in the Southwest of England, the capital accounted for over four in even ten (43%) of Newquay’s passengers, according to the UK CAA.

To ensure regular, year-round flights, Flybe previously secured the public service obligation (PSO) operation, initially for four years to Gatwick and then another four to Heathrow. A PSO means a route is subsidized financially for its regional economic contribution and the likelihood of it not running (or at sufficient frequency) if it was purely on commercial grounds.

Newquay airside
Regional airports play a vital role economically and are also quick to use. This is Newquay’s airside area, complete with a cafe selling freshly baked pasties. Photo: James Pearson | Simple Flying.

Welcome, Eastern Airways!

Then Flybe collapsed, with British Airways replacing it on a limited basis from Heathrow. easyJet then launched a non-financially-assisted peak season service from Gatwick, which, when writing, is bookable for summer 2022 (June 28th-September 3rd).

It would be pretty easy to do well during all-important July and August, but the isolated community, around six hours by train from London, needs year-round service.

After considerable work by Newquay Airport, which should not be underestimated, Eastern Airways secured the PSO to Gatwick last month. Taking off on December 15th, the 216-mile (348km) route initially operates seven-weekly and will gradually rise in frequency.

Eastern AT7 Gatwick
The celebration at Gatwick included airport management from Newquay and Gatwick together with business leaders from Cornwall. The ATR-72 normally has one hour at Gatwick, but it had three times as long on the first day so the first flight could be celebrated, including with pasties brought from Cornwall. They were still warm! Photo: James Pearson | Simple Flying.

A twice-daily service coming, but more still?

In the first week of summer, it’ll run 14-weekly, with the schedule helpful not just for tourists but also conducive to London trips. It’ll leave Cornwall at 07:00 and 17:00 and depart Gatwick at 08:55 and 18:55 (Saturday flights are 07:00/13:00 out and 08:55/14:55 back).

As you can tell from the above schedule, the based aircraft could easily operate another route from Newquay or add a third-daily peak season Gatwick service (subject to slots). If it decides to, expect an announcement in the next two or three months.

Eastern Airways ATR-72 interiorEastern Airways ATR-72 interior
The interior of G-IACZ is fresh. Despite the author being tall, legroom was good because of slimline seats, while newer engines ensured the ATR-72-600 was pretty quiet. Photo: James Pearson | Simple Flying.

Eastern Airways’ first flights

The author has been on various inaugural flights and attended different events for them, including in Russia and Saudi Arabia, but Newquay to Gatwick was different. Born and raised in the Southwest, the author has flown Newquay-London on various occasions with other operators.

The outbound flight departed Newquay at 11:01 and touched down in Gatwick precisely one hour later, according to Flightradar24. Some 46 people were onboard, a seat load factor (SLF) of 64%. Not bad for mid-December amid the Omicron crisis.

Eastern Airways ATR Newquay
When disembarking at Newquay, virtually every ground crew member said hello and welcomed passengers as they walked past. How often does that happen at an airport? Photo: James Pearson | Simple Flying.

Even hot towels

With a genuine air of excitement in Newquay, security took less than thirty seconds, a needed reminder of how much easier and less stressful regional airports can be. The service aboard was excellent, with an attentive and jolly cabin crew. There were even inclusive hot towels. The buy onboard menu has hot drinks for £2.50 and alcoholic options from £4.

Eastern Airways Newquay to Gatwick
Operating as “East Flight 53 November Lima,” it cruised at 19,000 feet to Gatwick. Image:

The aircraft

Eastern Airways has two 72-seat ATR-72-600s. Currently, G-IACZ is based at Newquay, although it is likely that it’ll be substituted by G-IACY every so often. ‘Charlie Zulu is leased and was delivered to Eastern in March 2018. It positioned to Newquay from Biggin Hill on December 14th.

It was a great and memorable day. Have you flown to Newquay or flown Eastern Airways? Let us know in the comments.