Published on April 2nd, 2015 | by Jim Lee0
Belfast International Airport continues to expand services
On 31st March, Belfast International Airport welcomed the announcement by easyJet of a major expansion on all its Belfast-London routes. The airline’s winter schedule sees it increasing the number of seats for sale on Gatwick, London Luton and Stansted by more than 125,000, bringing the total number of seats to over 500,000 up to the end of February, 2016. In addition, easyJet will add seat capacity to Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester, bringing the total to 160,000 seats. Belfast International Airport has said the easyJet expansion on all its London routes could lead to over 100 new aviation-related jobs in Northern Ireland.
Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport, said: “Increasing the number of seats by close to a third will mean significant increases in airport activity. We are well equipped to handle such a tremendous increase which will bring benefits not only to South Antrim but Northern Ireland generally”. The expansion will see upwards of 100 jobs created at the airport and in the supply chain, generating up to £2,500,000 (€3.45 million approx) in wages and salaries which will be a welcome boost for retailers. “This is a good day for the airport, but an even better one for the Northern Ireland economy” he added.
Over seventy flying phobics took to the skies from Belfast International Airport courtesy of easyJet’s Fearless Flyer programme which returned to the airport on Saturday 7th March. Since easyJet took to the skies in 1995, their team has had feedback from some of their passengers about how they would like to feel less fearful when they fly. They therefore developed the Fearless Flyer course as a way of offering a solid solution to help any nervous passenger, or would be passenger, to overcome their fear of flying. The course was in two parts, a theoretical element taking participants through the principles of flying, hosted by Channel 4’s Lawrence Leyton. The course took place at the Europa Hotel Belfast on the 6th March with a flight on an easyJet Airbus A319 aircraft the following morning, See here.
Wizz Air, the largest low-cost airline in Central and Eastern Europe, has launched the first of two new routes from the airport also on 31st March. The Belfast-Katowice service will be followed on the 22nd April by Belfast-Vilnius in Lithuania. The airline reported that the inaugural out-bound flight to the thriving south western Polish city where Wizz Air began life in 2004 was fully booked. The airline will operate a twice weekly service to both cities with fares starting as low as £39.99 (€55.20 approx). Wizz Air last year carried almost 16 million passengers, up 17% on the previous year, and operates a network of 360 routes from 20 bases.
Balkan Holidays, www.balkanholidays.co.uk the leading tour operator to Bulgaria, has announced that it will be adding an additional weekly flight from Belfast to Bourgas, Bulgaria, this summer. The additional flights will depart every Sunday between 21st June and 2nd August 2015. This is in addition to a Monday flight departure, which will operate between May and September. Thomas Cook Airlines had previously announced that it would be adding another three flights to Florida this summer in addition to those already announced to Florida, Las Vegas and Cuba. The services will be operate by Airbus A330 aircraft with 49 Premium and 265 economy seats, more than doubling capacity. These flights depart on Fridays for 14 nights on the following dates – 26th June, 3rd July & 4th September 2015 and are in addition to the existing flights from Belfast to Orlando on 30th June & 7th July.
2014 was a relatively successful year for Belfast International Airport with passenger numbers up 0.2% on the previous year. 4,031,700 passengers used the airport during the year an increase of over 8,600 from the 2013 total of 4,023,089. Passenger numbers at Belfast City at 2,555,111 were also up by 0.5% while City of Derry Airport at 350,257 was down by 9% from the 2013 figure of 385,081.
Belfast International continues to campaign against Air Passenger Duty (APD) although it, welcomed the UK Chancellor’s decision, announced in the Autumn Statement, to end it for under-12s from 1st May 2015 and under-16s the following year, which the airport described as a ‘step in the right direction’. While Northern Ireland has no APD on long haul flights this accounts for only 2% of passenger traffic at the airport, on domestic short haul flights APD accounts for a substantial part of the cost – on a £49 (€67.65) flight from Belfast to London, for example, £13 (€17.95) of it is accounted for by APD. In a statement on 3rd March following the release of Northern Ireland Centre for Economic Policy’s (NICEP’s) report ‘Economic Impact Assessment into continued application of APD in Northern Ireland‘ the airport said it was “disappointed this report fails to acknowledge the blatant and unique geographic challenge faced by Northern Ireland in UK terms”, It added “The Dublin Government, in keeping with other national Governments across the length and breadth of Europe, has recognised the economic folly of taxing travellers and visitors, and has taken timely steps to remove air tax and radically reduce other taxes on the hospitality sector. Furthermore, Dublin vividly recognises the opportunity which the continued air tax levy in Northern Ireland offers them to grow business directly to Northern Ireland’s economic detriment. Northern Ireland needs direct access from the outside world”.