The Northern Ireland Executive (NewNIGov) has agreed to provide £7m in financial support for the development of City of Derry Airport.

The organisation will provide up to £2.5m in route development support, while a £4.5m capital investment will be granted in partnership with Derry and Strabane District Council to create jobs and training opportunities.

A key part of Northern Ireland's transport infrastructure, City of Derry Airport currently handles more than 125,000 passengers annually.

The UK Government has also signalled its intentions to support the Londonderry to London air route, after existing operator Ryanair announced plans to stop serving it by the end of March 2017.

The government asked Derry City & Strabane Council to submit proposals to keep the route, which serves local businesses and the tourism industry.

This marks the government's first initiative to back a public service obligation (PSO) in Northern Ireland.

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"Our airports are vital in supporting local economies, providing connections in the UK and opening up new opportunities."

UK Government Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said: “Our airports are vital in supporting local economies, providing connections in the UK and opening up new opportunities.

“That is why the UK Government has agreed in principle to support the air route between City of Derry Airport and London.

“In terms of process, it is important that Derry City & Strabane District Council take forward the tender process to secure this route.”

Through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund, the UK Government currently maintains regional airport links.

The fund has been used to protect important regional air connections, which are facing challenges to survive.

Image: City of Derry airport handles more than 125,000 passengers annually. Photo: courtesy of UK Government.