Routes Europe provides a meeting place for airlines, airports, tourism authorities and government bodies that want to plan new flights and increase existing services. It moves to a new city every year to highlight different aviation markets to Europe’s leading airlines.
Increased investment in Northern Ireland and a tourism boom have helped to stimulate the demand for travel. Scheduled air traffic has increased by around 4% a year since 2013 – higher than the wider European region. Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport handled 7.8 million passengers last year, and the numbers are forecast to rise during 2017.
Low-cost airlines are responsible for much of the growth. Ryanair’s new base at Belfast International Airport has had the biggest impact, introducing flights to Berlin and Milan and a service to London Gatwick that operates four times a day. Thirteen additional routes will be operated during the summer 2017 schedule.
Belfast City Airport’s new routes include Eastern Airways’ regional UK flights and Icelandair’s three-times-a-week service to Reykjavik (starting in June) which will provide easy connections to its network of destinations in the US and Canada.
City of Derry Airport has also secured a new airline to Northern Ireland – bmi regional. The carrier will launch a high-frequency service to London Stansted at the beginning of May.
Northern Ireland is welcoming more visitors every year, creating the scope for further route development. Visits to the country’s attractions reached an all-time high of 17.5 million in 2015, with the most popular sites being the Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Belfast. The numbers will continue to grow as tourism is developed into an industry that delivers Â£1 billion to the economy by 2020 (a target of the Northern Ireland Executive).
A greater choice of destinations would better serve local people as well as visitors -1.2 million Northern Ireland residents passed through Dublin Airport in 2015. In addition, as many as one million inbound passengers used Dublin as a gateway to Northern Ireland. New routes from North Ireland’s airports would help to meet the demand that already exists in the market…