Ulster's air passengers were today reaping the benefits of the arline's battle to dominate the skies, with the long awaited arrival of Aer Lingus.
The airline launched its new service from Northern Ireland today and is claiming it will achieve its target of 500,000 passengers in its first year in Belfast.
Dermot Mannion, the chief executive, said there was " very good demand" across all nine routes Aer Lingus will operate.
He was speaking as the operation launched flights today for Amsterdam and Barcelona, and for Geneva tomorrow.
Other routes will be started between now and the end of March, with the Aldergrove to Heathrow service on January 14.
The opening of Aer Lingus' new Belfast base means Ulster air passengers have never had it so good. Three years ago there was just one route to continental Europe, now there are more than 30 direct to destinations like Gdansk in Poland, Tenerife and Barcelona.
Mr Mannion said: "On our advance bookings we are already across the 50,000 booking threshold which represents 10% of our target," he said.
"The demand for all routes is encouraging and we are already getting passengers booking online for services next summer."
Mr Mannion confirmed that Aer Lingus will be basing three Airbus A320 174-seat aircraft at Belfast International, a move which he said represented an investment of £100m and "a very significant commitment".
"In addition, we will now have 100 employees based at Belfast International and we were delighted with the calibre of the applicants for the positions," he added.
Asked whether Aer Lingus intended to start a service from Belfast to North America, Mr Mannion said: " Anything is possible but for now, we are completely focused on our nine short-haul routes."
The Aer Lingus chief executive said there were no immediate plans for a late evening service from Heathrow to Belfast, but said it was a matter the airline would keep under review.
Mr Mannion he was confident that with the growth of tourism in Northern Ireland, the Aer Lingus flights would carry considerable inbound traffic.
"We have already been involved in some joint marketing programmes with Tourism Ireland in Amsterdam, Barcelona and Geneva, and we are targeting business there," he said.
Mr Mannion predicted that the code-sharing arrangement agreed with British Airways and KLM would prove popular with local passengers.
He said: "This means that passengers can book through journeys to onward destinations via Heathrow with BA and via Amsterdam with KLM."
Mr Mannion acknowledged that stacking of incoming flights at Heathrow was a problem, but said the airport was still seen as a vital hub by passengers.
"Heathrow is a victim of its own success, and there can be stacking, but there is no question as to its overall importance as an international hub," he added.
Aer Lingus' flights to Budapest, Faro, Malaga and Rome will not start until February, with Nice in March.
The additional flights will help push total passenger numbers at Belfast International through the six million mark next year.