Business deals with emerging Middle Eastern nations may become easier after a new flight to Saudi Arabia began from Birmingham.
A new weekly service will fly from Birmingham International Airport to Athens, with onward connections to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, started on Saturday.
Operator Hellenic Imperial Airways said it hoped to increase the service to twice-weekly if there was demand.
The route opens the door to more business transactions between firms in Birmingham and Arabian businesspeople.
It comes just two days after Wolverhampton construction firm Carillion sealed a £275 million deal to build the new parliament building in Oman and after Coventry Airport completed work on its new Executive Jet Centre.
Talal Abureya, chairman of Hellenic Imperial Airways, said: “Birmingham is our first UK airport and we are very excited about launching services in the Midlands. Athens, which is our headquarters, is not currently served from Birmingham so we expect that our flights will be welcomed by those travelling for business and leisure, in particular those visiting friends and relatives.”
The Greek-registered scheduled airline will operate a Boeing 747-200 aircraft with 450 seats. It will arrive into Birmingham on Saturdays at 7pm and depart back to Athens and Jeddah at 10pm. On Mondays, the airline will arrive into Birmingham at 5pm, departing back to Athens and Jeddah at 10pm the following day. Return flights will cost from £199 before taxes to Athens and £399 plus taxes to Jeddah.
Marc Watkins, Birmingham Airport’s market development manager – aviation, said: “We welcome this development, particularly in today’s challenging economic climate. There is a market for Athens in the Midlands and the convenient schedule will suit those flying on business and leisure to both Greece and the Middle East. We urge those who would normally travel to other UK airports outside the region to choose Hellenic from Birmingham to support this new venture.”
Helenic’s commercial manager Theo Silvestros said: “As the principal gateway to Mecca, the Jeddah flights to be used by many pilgrims wanting to access Islam’s holiest city, and with such competitive prices Midlands people will be able to start this important journey from their doorstep.”
Meanwhile, the new Executive Jet Centre at Coventry Airport has been unveiled by the Lord Mayor of Coventry. It contains a lounge and meeting room as well as a pilot’s rest room with en-suite shower room. Airport director Brian Cox said: “We are extremely proud of the new Executive Jet Centre, it gives Coventry Airport the edge over other nearby airports when catering for the business aviation market. We are able to offer a discreet, efficient and customer-focused service that customers will not be able to experience elsewhere.”