According to Leeds-born businessman James Thorpe, HS2 and the Northern Powerhouse are not the answer for economic improvement the North.

Instead, he believes the weakness in Northern infrastructure lies in the lack of business air travel. To that end, he is seeking to raise £2 million of funding to set up his own airline, Extrajet, which will run twice daily direct flights from Leeds-Bradford International Airport, to Copenhagen & Antwerp, with other UK and European cities to follow.

“Business people wanting to travel internationally, to drive their export sales, are very badly served by Yorkshire’s airports. It is impossible to fly to many of the key European business destinations, and those looking to fly to other continents from Yorkshire are forced to fly to London first. The same applies to business or pleasure travellers from Europe wishing to travel to the region. This is simply unacceptable for a county the size of
Yorkshire ”

The ticket price will be slightly higher than low cost operators, with no discount available – but for them, service is key. Unlike the infamous service provided by operators such as Ryanair and Easyjet, Extrajet will offer all the trimmings, including car parking, in-flight entertainment, an aiport lounge, speedy boarding and in-flight light meals and drinks.

Yorkshire is the largest of England’s regions and, with a population of almost 6 million, its economic output of £88 billion is significant – almost 7% of the UK’s total economic output. The need to improve business links to the area is unavoidable.

Though he started raising investment through a a corporate finance firm based in the city, he has decided that individual investors with a real interest in seeing Yorkshire thrive are the best way forward for his business.

His plan is to attract investors through press releases and business groups which – to his own surprise – has worked exceedingly well. In the last few days alone he has received emails from a few hundred interested parties; it seems that he is not alone in thinking that an improvement in business air travel is the right thing for Yorkshire.

Thorpe said: “We would like to find a small group of ‘qualified’ investors who are passionate about Yorkshire and perhaps also aviation. We are looking to raise £2M in total in exchange for 45% equity. I would imagine we need around four or five serious investors.”

Furthermore, Thorpe believes that the business will be eligible for the Enterprise Investment Scheme, offering tax relief for investors – an encouraging incentive.

Thorpe is an experienced, well qualified and highly motivated business entrepreneur with almost 30 years experience at an international level, and has a strong team supporting the company with solid backgrounds in business, finance and aviation. Starting his own airline is a bold move; but it might just be exactly what Yorkshire is looking for.

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