Bombardier C Series jets 'could fly to the US and Middle East'
Bombardier's C Series passenger jets could open up a direct route from Belfast City Airport to the east coast of America and the Middle East, its boss claimed.
Airport boss Brian Ambrose, who worked for Shorts/Bombardier for 25 years, told the Belfast Telegraph the C Series could "comfortably" open direct routes to The Canaries and Turkey, as well as linking Belfast to the east coast of the US, and cities such as Boston - opening up some longer-range opportunities.
The narrow-body passenger jets, which are part-made at Bombardier's Belfast base - which employs around 5,000 staff - are extremely fuel efficient, and potentially give smaller airports greater reach to areas outside of continental Europe.
It comes after Aer Lingus and British Airways boss Willie Walsh said he was having talks with Bombardier chief executive Alain Bellemare about taking on the C Series. Both airlines currently fly from Belfast City Airport.
And Mr Ambrose says the airport also plans to add up to two new European routes each year.
“The IAG group (owner of Aer Lingus and British Airways) is proving very beneficial to us... we have a position in the IAG group and are looking to expand that,” he said.
“When it comes to range, the immediate target which is outside of our range would be The Canaries, which is a good 12-month programme ... the C Series can certainly comfortably do that, down in to Turkey, and potentially the east coast of the US.
“We will watch which airlines buy the aircraft.
“The C Series is the right kind of aircraft, and has the right range. If you are looking at the next five to 10 years, that might throw up opportunities for us.
“Once you increase the range of what’s possible from this airport. People talk about us having a short runway, but it’s a mile and a quarter long, it’s not particularly short.
“The performance capability of the C Series and that new generation of aircraft will certainly open up wider opportunities for us.”
And he says from a “personal point of view” and as someone who spent 25 years with Shorts/Bombardier, he’s keen to see the C Series “do well”. “It’s an amazing aircraft and I think the Delta order was a game changer.”
Mr Ambrose said the airport was continuing to look for “support and a supportive environment” from the new Department for the Economy. But while the long-haul routes may be some way off, he said the airport is focusing on expanding its European network further.
“Over the last five years we have laid the foundations for a good European network,” he said.
He said that could include bringing in new routes to Germany, through Lufthansa, or IAG-owned Iberia, into locations such as Madrid.
“We would be developing the connection into Brussels, and we have about 10 other city pairs that we are targeting,” he said.
“Germany is an unserved market. Certainly Frankfurt and Munich would be the top targets within the German market.”
Bombardier has been struggling financially, both in Belfast and globally. It said the Belfast operation could be “over the worst” if C Series orders pick up after the jet programme cost the company here nearly $340m (£240m).
It also announced it was cutting 1,080 jobs here over a two-year period. But in April it landed an order for 75 of the CS100 aircraft from US giant Delta.