George Best Belfast City Airport today launched a bid to break the stranglehold of Belfast International on direct scheduled services from Northern Ireland to the continent.
The first move is the proposed launch by Flybe of a weekly timetabled service from Belfast to Rennes in the Brittany area of France.
Until now the only flights from Belfast City to the continent have been ski charter services. The airport has concentrated on scheduled services to Britain and the Republic.
But Flybe recently disclosed that it had aspirations towards scheduled services from the City Airport to Paris, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf.
The airline, which is the largest scheduled carrier at the City Airport, aims to start the Saturday service to Rennes on May 26.
The same day will see the launch by Flybe of a weekly scheduled service from City Airport to Newquay in Cornwall.
Brian Ambrose, chief executive of City Airport, said: "International routes have long been a goal for us and we are delighted that Flybe has announced the service to Rennes."
Mike Rutter, Flybe's chief commercial officer, said the move signalled the fulfilment of a promise to provide more continental destinations direct from Belfast.
He said: "The inaugural route to France marks a significant step in our growth plans for City Airport and will bring the total number of destinations we serve from Northern Ireland to 16."
Next March Flybe is due to add the existing British Airways Connect service to Manchester to its portfolio, as part of a takeover of the BA regional operation.
Mr Rutter said: "Once we complete the purchase of BA Connect, the potential for new destinations will be enormous."
Tickets for the two new routes have now gone on sale with lead-in one-way fares starting from £39.99 to Rennes and from £34.99 to Newquay, both inclusive of tax.