A NORTH-EAST airport has started a new service to Belgium.

BMI Regional is running twice-daily flights from Newcastle International to Brussels, which bosses say is the only direct flight to link the two cities.

The first aircraft was yesterday (Monday, March 3) officially welcomed to the North-East by a guard of honour, including a water salute from the airport's fire service.

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Cathal O’Connell, BMI Regional's chief executive, said: “We are delighted to provide the only direct flight for travellers from the North-East to the Belgian capital.

“We launched more than a dozen new routes from UK airports last year and our Newcastle service opens up more opportunities for travellers.”

Dave Laws, Newcastle International's chief executive, added: “This is a vital European connection and will help regional businesses to prosper.”