Owned and run by Niall and Jennifer McKeever, Airporter offers bus travel daily between Derry-Londonderry and Belfast International and George Best Belfast City airports.

Established in 1997 the company was carrying up to 160,000 passengers a year to and from the north west on its 18 buses until the government-imposed coronavirus lockdown and suspension of passenger air travel forced it to halt its services in March.

Director of Airporter Niall McKeever said: “We felt a bit like the canary down the mine as we were amongst the first businesses to be hit when flights were cut back, the first to stop services and the first to require assistance.

“Aviation was one of the first sectors to close down but we are hopeful it will also be one of the first to bounce back. We provide an essential link, so when aviation is turned back on our business will come back. There may be less carriers or fewer flights but we are an island so we know flights will return and demand will be there.”

In order to ensure the business could ride out the suspension of its services, Danske Bank arranged for a deferral of all asset finance payments for six months, a three-month capital holiday, an extended overdraft and an additional loan through the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Niall added: “We have had a tight partnership with Danske Bank for the last seven years and they have always understood our business model. It’s testament to this strong relationship that the bank has chosen to commit the future of our business and stand beside us during a difficult time. The cocktail of support they have provided gives us comfort that we can ride out the next 3-6 months and be ready to start up again when the time is right.”

Peter Houston, Business Manager at Danske Bank said: “Danske Bank was glad to be able to provide support for Airporter as the impact of coronavirus on its business became clear. We were able to implement some support measures even before the government support programmes were announced.

“The company had a strong, viable business before the lockdown forced operations to be suspended so we wanted to do all we could to ensure it was in a position to emerge in the same condition when restrictions are lifted.”