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New horizons: as summer flight schedules begin, these are our favourite additions

Easter Sunday last fell on 31 March in 2002. In that year, Manchester airport – one of the UK’s top four gateways – handled 18.8 million passengers. Last year, there were 10 million more. That number is sure to increase this summer because Manchester is one of many UK airports with new flights launched for the peak season. (It is also adding to the rare destinations which are not also served from London, with a Ryanair flight to Reggio Calabria in southern Italy.)

This weekend, the range of destinations on departure screens blossoms. In the airline world, summer begins when the clocks change. Many carriers use the moment to add new flights.

The UK government has done its best to encourage flying by reducing air passenger duty for domestic departures; environmentalists are horrified. Anna Hughes, director of Flight Free UK, says: “While it’s exciting to look ahead to the summer holidays, it would be much better to make plans in a low-carbon way. Last summer’s wildfires across the Mediterranean were a potent illustration that our climate situation is fragile and getting worse, and a bumper summer of flying will only exacerbate that.

“There are countless holiday destinations all across Europe that can be reached by boat, coach or train, for a fraction of the emissions of a flight, so not flying doesn’t mean giving up our holidays.”

Airlines say they are doing their best to reduce the impact of flying. Passengers can limit their damage by flying only in basic economy class with airlines that have the most modern aircraft.

These are the new links that I find most interesting – followed by the pick of airline schedule analyst Sean Moulton.

Simon’s selection – all beginning on 31 March

London Gatwick-Lagos, Air Peace. Nigeria’s biggest city – and the country as a whole – is dismally underserved from the UK. The arrival of a relatively resilient Nigerian airline could begin to address that and, furthermore, offer connecting links to western and southern Africa. But for the inaugural flight, fares are already north of £1,000 return.

Birmingham-Beauvais, Ryanair. Flights from the West Midlands to a small town in northern France may not set the travel pulse racing but this is a useful new link. It will offer a far cheaper alternative to Air France’s existing route to Paris CDG. The 90-minute bus transfer to the French capital may be annoying but it could save you £100. The route could also spur interest in relatively under-visited nearby locations such as Amiens, Compiegne and Rouen.

Southampton-Alicante, easyJet. What a difference 164 metres makes. That is the length of the runway extension at the Hampshire airport. Making the runway longer allows aircraft to carry more fuel, permitting a far wider range of opportunities to link Southampton with sunshine destinations. It will create competition with Gatwick and Heathrow (both 53 miles northeast) and Bournemouth (24 miles southwest).

Liverpool-Corfu, Ryanair. John Lennon airport is expecting 12 per cent passenger growth this year, with Jet2 launching a four-aircraft base and Ryanair relentlessly expanding. Like Birmingham, multi-airline competition is flourishing, with easyJet and Wizz Air weighing in. Three decades ago, just about the only place you could fly was the Isle of Man.

London Gatwick-Agadir, British Airways. BA’s EuroFlyer operation is going head to head with easyJet from the Sussex airport – always a welcome sight. Morocco more widely is getting more links, with Ryanair starting Birmingham to Marrakech on the same day.

Sean’s selection – various start dates

Ryanair launching Norwich for the first time, with three routes: Alicante, Faro and Malta.

Azerbaijan Airlines, Swiss International Airlines and Uzbekistan Airways expanding in London by adding flights to Gatwick at the start of the summer season.

Blue Islands adding Jersey to the Isle of Man from 23 April – connecting the two crown dependencies.

JetBlue adding Edinburgh to expand its UK presence (currently Heathrow and Gatwick) to three airports, with transatlantic links.

Italy being better connected to the UK – with Reggio Calabria and Salerno being connected to Manchester and London Gatwick respectively.

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