Published on December 6th, 2016 | by Jim Lee


Belfast City adds Keflavik to its network offering transatlantic connections as passenger numbers edge up

On 2nd December, Icelandair announced that it would add Belfast City, as a new destination, starting 1st June 2017. The new service to Keflavik will be operated by sister airline Air Iceland, using a 72-seat Bombardier Dash 8-400 aircraft. The flight, a code sharing partnership with Icelandair, offers great connections, at Keflavik International Airport, with Icelandair’s wide network of destinations in the US and Canada.

Air Iceland operates a fleet of five Bombardier Dash 8-400s and three Fokker 50s, which complement Icelandair’s fleet of 30 aircraft (27 Boeing 757-200s, one Boeing 757-300 and two Boeing 767-300s).


Air Iceland launches new service from Belfast City to Keflavik

Belfast will become Icelandair‘s 44th scheduled destination with a full year-round service, the NY5510/1, operating three times a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Flights depart Keflavik at 07:45, arriving in Belfast at 11:40. The aircraft departs Belfast at 13:40, arriving back at Keflavik at 15:35. The flying time on the Dash 8 is 2 hours 55 minutes.

George Best Belfast City Airport in County Antrim is only 3 miles (5 km), or 15 minutes, from the city centre and is situated adjacent to the Port of Belfast. It shares the site with the Bombardier aircraft (formerly the Short Brothers) manufacturing facility.

The airport began commercial operations in 1983 and has a single- 6,000 ft. (1,829m) runway. The airport was formerly known as ‘Belfast City Airport’ until it was renamed on 22nd May, 2006, in memory of George Best, the professional footballer from Belfast.

Welcoming the launch of the new route, Katy Best, Commercial and Marketing Director at George Best Belfast City Airport, commented:

“Belfast City Airport is delighted to announce our new three-times weekly flight to Reykjavik, which is a further extension of our growing European route network and a major boost to the Northern Ireland economy.

“Icelandair has a proven international pedigree and our partnership with the airline for this new service will be a hugely welcome addition to the local market for business and leisure passengers.

“With a fantastic range of cultural events, activities and historical sites, the Icelandic capital is an increasingly popular tourist destination, while the route offers passengers an extremely convenient connection to a host of destinations in the USA and Canada.

“This announcement comes as we approach the end of a hugely successful year for Belfast City Airport, and acts as a major fillip for the local aviation sector as we head into an exciting 2017 and the hosting by Belfast of the Routes Europe conference.”

Birkir Holm Guðnason, Icelandair CEO added; “Belfast is a vibrant fast growing city with great business and leisure opportunities and we are happy to be able to offer our customers this exciting addition to our network. Like our code share operation with Air Iceland to Aberdeen, Scotland, our Belfast route will be flown in cooperation with our sister company, utilising their smaller aircraft like the Q400 to create new markets and opportunities,”

Belfast will become Icelandair‘s 27th gateway in Europe, with this partnership with Air Iceland, who currently offer services to five destinations in Greenland (Ilulissat, Kangerlussuaq, Kulusuk, Narsarsuaq and Nuuk), five in Iceland (Akureyri, Egilsstadir, Isafjordur, Keflavik and Reykjavik Domestic) and Aberdeen in the United Kingdom.

2015: “An Exceptional Year” at Belfast City Airport

George Best Belfast City Airport suffers to a large extent by having to share a relatively small catchment area with its larger neighbour, Belfast International, some 20 miles (32 km) to the west. In 2015 it handled just over 2.694 million passengers compared to over 3.433 million at Belfast International. It also faces competition from Dublin, (which handled over 25 million passengers in 2105), just over 100 miles (161 km) to the south.

Passenger numbers at Belfast City Airport however, were up 5.1% in 2015 compared to the 2.56 million handled over the previous 12 months.


Financially, 2015 was an exceptional year at the airport. It made an operating profit, before exceptional expenses, of £3,331,000 (around €3.94 million), by 40% from the £2,386,000 (around €2.83 million) made in 2014. This was on the back of a 5% increase in turnover which rose to £20,799,000 (around €24.62 million), up from £19,801,000 (around €23.43 million), in 2014.

In their published accounts, provision is made for one exceptional expense which was due to professional fees of £412,000 (around €487,600), relating to the Public Inquiry into the airport’s seats for sale restriction. This has yet to be resolved.

In a comment, the airport’s Chief Executive, Brian Ambrose, said: “The business performed exceptionally well in 2015 with an increase in non-aviation revenues and a tight control on costs resulting in a significant increase in operating profit. The commencement of the KLM daily service to Amsterdam and Flybe’s new services to London City and Liverpool witnessed passenger numbers steadily increase across our route network”.

Traffic growth remains flat

While Mr. Ambrose previously said he expected that 2016 would to be a strong year figures for the first nine months have remained flat. This is despite the arrival of Brussels Airlines, Aer Lingus summer routes to Palma, Alicante, Faro and Malaga, which returned strong performances, particularly in August, and respectable numbers on the nine times daily service to Heathrow, with British Airways and Aer Lingus, Just over 2,066 million passengers were recorded up to the end of September, which is just 4,189 higher (0.2%) than the 2014 figures. Full details are given in the following table:-


Flybe, which began operations at the airport in 1993, is now the largest operator with a total choice of up to 576 flights a week across 13 routes, for the 2016-17 Winter Schedule. All 13 routes are destinations in the UK namely, Aberdeen, Birmingham, Cardiff, London City, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Inverness, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham (EMA), and Southampton. All are operated by Bombardier Dash 8-400s, with the exception of Manchester, which has a mix of Dash 8s and Embraer EMB 175s.

Route Network

The popularity of Flybe’s successful Manchester and Birmingham hubs continues to rise, with passengers taking advantage of the opportunity to by-pass congested London airports, to make more seamless onward connections. Using the airline’s convenient, ‘One Stop to the World’ proposition, they can travel either onward with other Flybe regional services, or farther afield to an extensive section of long haul destinations, through its various codeshare partners. These partners, such as Air India, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic can only be booked via a travel agent. Each of these two hub destinations offers up to seven flights a day from Belfast.

Scottish destinations also continue to be well served from Belfast City by Flybe, with up to six flights per day, to Edinburgh and Glasgow. There is also increased capacity on the Leeds Bradford service with five daily flights. East Midlands and London City are both connected by up to four flights a day. Finally Winter Cruise passengers are also able to avail of up to three daily flights to Southampton.

The airport has two other UK services, Heathrow (operated by Aer Lingus and British Airways) and Isle of Man (Citywing). It has just two international services namely, Brussels (Brussels Airlines) and Amsterdam (KLM Cityhopper), although Aer Lingus is adding Faro and Malaga effective 26th March 2017.


However, the airport is particularly pleased with the increasing number of International passengers and the end of August saw the airport beat its previous annual high of 171,270, set last year, with the 2016 figure having now climbed to 200,977.

Over 150,000 passengers took advantage of Belfast City Airport’s sunshine routes in summer 2016, to Alicante as well as Malaga, Faro and Palma, while Brussels Airlines has recorded consecutive monthly growth, since the launch of its five times weekly Brussels flights from Belfast City Airport, in March of this year.

KLM, meanwhile, carried over 55,000 passengers since the airline began its Amsterdam Schiphol service from Belfast City in May 2015.

The airport has also been ranked as the sixth most convenient airport in the world, and the most convenient airport in the UK and Ireland, in study conducted by The Daily Telegraph earlier this year. Mr. Ambrose added that the Airport continues to invest in its infrastructure aimed at improving still further the customer experience, with significant capital investment planned for the facility.

Finally ground handling at the airport is provided by Swissport and Menzies Aviation.

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About the Author

Jim has had a life-long interest in military matters and aviation. Initially, he fused both of these interests together with a passion for military aviation, initially as a photographer. He has travelled extensively over the years and has been the guest of many European air forces, plus the air forces of the United States, Russia and others throughout the world. His first introduction to journalism coincided with an interest in the civil aviation industry was when he initially wrote for and later edited, ‘Aviation Ireland’, the club magazine of the Aviation Society of Ireland. Jim was a contributor to Flying in Ireland since its inception over 10 years ago and is now a key contributor to this site. He has also contributed items for a number of other aviation magazines and has produced a number of detailed contributions to Government policy documents, most recently the Irish Government’s White Paper on Defence. He is also deeply involved in the local community and voluntary sector and has worked both in local government and central government.

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