Belfast Telegraph

Aer Lingus suspends flights on five Belfast routes

By Victoria O'Hara

Aer Lingus today confirmed that it will be reducing its service from Belfast International Airport this winter but said the suspended flights would return for passengers within four months.

The company said that flights to five destinations Faro, Barcelona, Milan, Rome and Paris will stop between September 21 and October 24.

One aircraft will be removed from Belfast for a four-month period.

Aer Lingus also confirmed that flights will be reduced from Dublin with a number of aircraft taken out of the fleet.

However, the company said that the move was not out of the ordinary for airlines at that time of year.

Enda Corneille, Aer Lingus Corporate Affairs Director, told the Belfast Telegraph the five routes were “never planned” to be operational during the winter months.

But added that the company had to be “prudent” as winter approaches to make the right decisions so the airline remained in a strong position to continue to offer low fares in the future.

He added: “It’s a temporary reduction for four months.

“We also have a new maintenance programme, we are doing a little bit less flying in the winter, both from Dublin where a number of aircraft will be taken out of the fleet. And at Belfast one will be taken out for four months only.

“When we get through the winter, get through the maintenence programme and we are back to full steam very early in March 2010.”

He said the company remains postive about Belfast as a base.

“There is a lot of life in the Northern Irish market, but we have to be prudent as we get into the winter to make the right decisions so that the airline remains strong and remains in a position to be able to continue to offer low fares into the future. That’s really all this is about.”

Mr Corneille said the airline will be opening a new route to Tenerife in addition to Lanzarote as a winter destination.

“Reductions in schedules by airlines for the winter period are fairly common place and what we are doing at Belfast this winter is launching a new route to Tenerife. That’s in addition to Lanzarote.

“Those two routes are about four hour sectors so it eats up aircraft resources, so we’ve had to make some cuts.

“If you look at the ones we are taking out they are pretty short sectors, they are about an hour and a half two hours.

“And the ones we are bringing in Tenerife, and Lanzarote they are four hour plus. You simply couldn’t operate the same number of routes.”

Aer Lingus also denied reports that the company board will scale back the operations due to competition from other carriers.

Mr Corneille said they are “happy” with Belfast.

“The base is performing very well. For the month of April we’ve had an 80% load factor across all the bases.

“Bookings are up 17% on last year. We remain very committed to the market place.

“At the end of this week we will announce our one millionth passenger from Belfast International.

“We remain very encouraged by the performance from Belfast.”

The airline will be offering five flights this winter, Heathrow, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Malaga and Munich.

Belfast Telegraph