Belfast Telegraph

Sir Richard Branson is Belfast International Airport's Prince Charming

By Margaret Canning

Companies of all sizes from Northern Ireland's burgeoning aerospace sector are in Farnborough this week for the biggest event in the aerospace calendar.

Some, like Bombardier, are able to revel in multi-million dollar orders while they are there, while smaller companies, like Denroy and Hutchinson, will also be flying the flag for their significant supply chain capabilities. Those of us who are back at home are today reminded in a very positive way of one of the most pleasing outworkings of the aerospace industry – flights to far-flung destinations.

Today, Virgin Atlantic has announced scheduled flights from Belfast to Orlando, Florida.

Belfast International Airport seems to be enjoying a renaissance after months, even years, of unflattering comparisons with Dublin Airport, its wider range of routes and freedom from expensive air passenger duty on short-haul flights.

But what a difference a few months can make. BIA now has high hopes that an air route to Istanbul, courtesy of Turkish Airlines, will be confirmed, making a range of onward Middle East destinations more accessible to Northern Ireland.

Last week easyJet unveiled flights between Belfast and Iceland, and last month, Thomas Cook Airlines announced two one-off flights to Orlando and one to Las Vegas next summer.

But the good news came after the blow of United Airlines' decision to suspend its Newark link from Belfast – currently Northern Ireland's only transatlantic connection – during the first few months of next year.

But a series of positive announcements has followed.

Back in 2005, this newspaper's Top 100 magazine reflected that over the space of one year, our air links with the wider world grew from one to 11. Former business correspondent Robin Morton reflected that "30 years after it opened, Aldergrove can finally live up to its name of Belfast International Airport". Is the airport now in for another reversal of fortune?

After years as Cinderella to Dublin's ugly sister, BIA may now be ready for the ball – and Sir Richard Branson is its Prince Charming.

Belfast Telegraph