Dozens of cities in the US will be opened up to businesses and tourists in Birmingham next year with the launch of a new air link to Philadelphia.
US Airways, the fifth largest airline in America, will start flights to Philadelphia starting in May, opening up Birmingham to connecting flights US locations like Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Flights will operate daily, coming into Birmingham International Airport at 6.25 every morning and leaving for Philadelphia just over two hours later.
Suzanne Boda, the senior vice president for east coast, international and cargo operations of US Airways said, “We are delighted to bring this portfolio to the people of the Midlands and offer a new destination to Birmingham’s growing network from 2009.”
Birmingham currently has just one direct route to the US, the Continental Airlines connection to New York (Newark). A route to Chicago run by American Airlines was discontinued a few years ago.
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the move would be a huge boost to the local economy, particularly with the poor performance of the pound making export markets more profitable.
A spokesman said: “Obviously its very good news for the whole community, but especially for the business one.
“Philadelphia is an important business centre itself so it will improve links between ourselves and that part of the States.
“It’s very useful for people trying to do business in the states. In the current economic climate it’s important people can look to export markets to find new customers.”
The deal was struck after months of negotiation between Birmingham International and US Airways at their headquarters in Phoenix, Arizona.
Peter Vella, business development director at the airport described US Airways as a “premier airline”, and said the start of the new link to the US would be a massive boost for the region in terms of trade links and tourism.
He added: “At the moment we just have the daily service with Continental to Newark and demand is certainly greater than that.
“US Airways’ Philadelphia hub offers Midlanders a vast list of onward flights throughout Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America and the USA. The significance of this new service cannot be underestimated.
“This just provides more access for us and puts us on the world map.”
He said Birmingham, as with many airports across the world, saw long-haul flights as a serious growth opportunity. But he added Birmingham’s ambitions could not be extended any further than Philadelphia unless the runway was lengthened.
The US Airways hub at Philadelphia connects to 108 non-stop destinations, 83 in the US and Canada, with 405 flights a day.
Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “This great news for the whole West Midlands region and demonstrates Birmingham’s ever growing status as a major international hub for business, travel and tourism.
“Alongside the emerging markets of China and India, the US possesses one of the primary economies with which globally relevant cities such as Birmingham must increasingly trade and interact. Only by first establishing world-class transport links of this nature can we start to build the necessary relationships with major overseas economies which ultimately serve as the catalyst for inward investment, job creation and local prosperity.”