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£2.7m VIP lounge for Aldergrove to pamper our high-flying visitors

By John Mulgrew

Published 22/05/2015

Lady Gaga has played in Belfast
Lady Gaga has played in Belfast
Miley Cyrus

Some of the world's biggest stars and richest people could soon be living the high life when they jet into Northern Ireland.

Private plane specialist Jet Assist is planning to build a glitzy new £2.7m VIP business centre at Belfast International Airport, making way for a flood of top-end private jets to touch down here.

The new facility will cater for pop stars, Hollywood celebs and some of the world's wealthiest people.

Those travelling across the Atlantic and from even further afield will be able to avail of luxury surroundings and pass through security and Customs in the privacy of the new bespoke business centre.

The company currently handles around 500 planes through its existing, much smaller hub.

But boss Ian Morrow wants to increase air traffic, with plans for up to 2,000 planes passing through each year.

And while he wouldn't be drawn on the details of his exclusive clientele, it's understood the business handles a large bulk of the stars who come to Belfast to perform at the Odyssey Arena.

In recent years that number has included the likes of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Lionel Richie and Katy Perry.

"We would handle stars coming into Northern Ireland, and golf is also big for us; we look after lots who come in, trying to catch a glimpse of Rory McIlroy," Mr Morrow said.

"We handle some serious VIPs as well as business people, we will charter aircraft and also find aircraft on behalf of customers.

"This new complex will include boardrooms, bedrooms for crew, as well as lounges, so people can fly into Northern Ireland, meet at our facility, and then fly back on their jet."

The new project will include a 44,000sq ft hangar capable of holding a commercial-sized Boeing 767 jet and a 22,000 sq ft office complex. The glass-clad two-storey facility will also boast lounges, kitchens, a flying school operation as well as a VIP security screening suite.

It is due to be completed by summer 2017.

The man behind the business, 28-year-old Fermanagh native Mr Morrow, worked his way up from refuelling planes at the age of 18 to running his own private jet handling company for the past six years. His top-end VIP experience deals in a range of pricey luxury private jets, including Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream aircraft.

And the cost of a private jet return from Belfast to New York? Anywhere from £80,000.

"You can land your jet, drive right into the hangar and get straight into your car," Mr Morrow said. "The new facility will have a curved front completely made of glass. We are also trying to get a Boeing 777 engine housing for the reception area.

"Upstairs there is the boardroom, bedrooms and offices, while downstairs it will be private lounges, coffee and drinks, as well as a large kitchen for VIP catering."

He's banking on a big surge in business when Northern Ireland finally gets handed the ability to set its own rate of corporation tax.

That is due to come into effect in April 2017.

Belfast Telegraph

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