Aer Lingus to switch from Belfast International to Belfast City Airport

The Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport has dismissed the remarks made by BALPA link , that Belfast should have only one airport, at a Commons Select Committee hearing as laughable. He said the airport is a profitable privately run company, and cannot be closed down against their wishes. BALPA had said that Belfast City airport was not needed, and was creating over capacity for Belfast. Meanwhile Aer Lingus is thought to be switching its operations from Belfast International Airport to Belfast City Airport, after the City airport lost BMI Baby.  Aer Lingus flies to Heathrow and 7 European destinations, but it is thought it may expand routes to regional UK airports from the City and compete with Flybe. The move could happen soon, and the City Airport would have Belfast’s only Heathrow connection.


Belfast Airport will not close, says City chief

By Lesley-Anne McKeown 

16.6.2012 (Belfast Telegraph)

Controversial claims that Belfast should have just one airport have prompted an angry reaction.

Brian Ambrose, chief executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, has dismissed the remarks made by the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) link at a Commons Select Committee hearing as laughable.

“How do you close Belfast City Airport?” he said.

“We are a privately-owned company. People cannot wish us away. Our competition may wish to debate this further but we are a profitable, privately-owned business.

“This would be like the CEO of Tesco saying that Northern Ireland would be better served if Sainsbury’s and their other competitors disappeared. If he suggested that, everyone would laugh.

“Everyone is entitled to their opinion and to engage in the debate but the reality is that for someone to close City Airport they would need to be paying around £200m.”

BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan sparked controversy when he told MPs investigating Northern Ireland’s air links with the rest of the UK and beyond that moving to one airport would be a “brave thing to do, but the right thing to do”.

“The people responding to our survey did not see the sense of two airports, 14 miles apart,” he said at Westminster on Wednesday.

“It was an over capacity, and the wrong sort of capacity, because the one that seems the most sensible has got the shortest runway or not the appropriate runway.”

Katie Best, City Airport’s commercial and marketing director, said: “Nobody is ever going to suggest that you close down either airport and put thousands of jobs at risk.

“In a hypothetical situation where you are talking about only having one airport in Northern Ireland, there would be a debate, yes, to say that a 24-hour airport would be the one that would be sustained, but there would also be a strong argument to maintain the airport that people prefer to use, and that’s City Airport.”

Meanwhile, Uel Hoey from Belfast International Airport has said there needs to be a debate on air provision in Northern Ireland.

He said the industry was getting bogged down with “local competition” and it was time to look at how an international facility is served in order to drive the Northern Ireland economy forward.

Consumer Council chief executive Antoinette McKeown said the current set-up should stay because it offers passengers a choice, adding: “They are both private concerns. They do not take money from the public purse.

“Since competition was effectively introduced, both airports have doubled in size.”

A Northern Ireland Select Committee is probing air links in light of the Government’s Civil Aviation Bill, which will change the way the industry is regulated.



15 June 2012 (BBC)

Aer Lingus to switch to George Best Belfast City Airport

By Jim Fitzpatrick (BBC NI economics and business editor)

Aer Lingus is thought to be on the move into east Belfast

Aer Lingus is planning to switch its operations from Belfast International Airport to Belfast City Airport.

The move follows the City’s loss of BMI Baby – which carried 400,000 passengers a year – and gives an indication of the Irish airline’s intentions.

Aer Lingus flies to Heathrow and seven European destinations, but it is thought it may expand routes to regional UK airports from the City.

This would fill some of the lost BMI Baby routes and compete with Flybe.

Belfast International Airport has yet to comment on the move.

A spokesperson for George Best Belfast City Airport said: “Following the announcement of the departure of bmi baby we stated that we were confident that we would attract new airlines.

“This position has not changed and we expect to make several announcements in the coming weeks.

“We are certainly not in a position to comment on speculation regarding specific airlines at this stage.”

Confirmation from the airline may follow a board meeting next week.

The BBC understands flights could be moved to Belfast City within weeks and that a formal announcement may come in days.

The move will also make George Best Belfast City Airport, Belfast’s only Heathrow connection.

With the takeover of BMI by British Airways there had been concerns over that route.

BA has confirmed its commitment to the route but there remains speculation that there may be long-term plans for both airlines to work together on the Belfast-Heathrow connection.

Aer Lingus currently operates flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Lanzarote, Las Palmas, London Heathrow, Malaga and Tenerife.