Easyjet announces Belfast to Reykjavik route: Airline predicts 30,000 passengers a year will enjoy flights
Budget airline easyJet has announced direct scheduled flights between Northern Ireland and Iceland.
The connection will take off from Belfast International on December 12, 2014 and will operate twice a week throughout the year to the capital Reykjavik.
The route will be operated using a 156-seater Airbus A319, with the airline forecasting 30,000 passengers during the first 12 months.
Reykjavik is the 26th destination to be served by easyJet from Belfast, with the airline now employing over 230 people here.
Ali Gayward, head of Northern Ireland, easyJet, said: "We are pleased to have introduced Ireland's only direct link to Iceland, offering a year-round service with a flight time of just over two hours.
"It is particularly exciting to be introducing such a unique and exciting route to our base at Belfast International and we're confident it will provide a popular addition to easyJet's network.
"We believe the breath-taking scenery and culture on offer in both Iceland and Ireland will deliver strong tourism benefits for both countries."
In 2010 Iceland Express airline had plans to launch a Belfast-to-Reykjavik route – however this was withdrawn following a three-month trial.
Gerry Lennon, chief executive of Visit Belfast, said the route could be good news for incoming tourism.
He said: "This new route unlocks a wealth of opportunities for Belfast and for Northern Ireland to promote the diversity of attractions on offer and we look forward to welcoming and accommodating the needs of a steady influx of Icelandic visitors here over the years ahead."
A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Tourist Board added: "Any new market that brings high-spending visitors to hotels, shops, restaurants and attractions would be an exciting development."
Tourism in Iceland has increased by 40% over the last two years, helped by the introduction of affordable flights. Belfast will become easyJet's seventh direct flight to Reykjavik.
Brian Ogle, editor of Northern Ireland Travel News, said getting to Iceland from Northern Ireland had been "very costly and time-consuming" up until now.
"It will be welcomed by local travellers as well as incoming Icelandic visitors coming here for both business and leisure reasons. This new service makes Iceland's unique lunar-like volcanic landscape more accessible to the wider travelling public."
Meanwhile, passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport are beginning to rise as the summer season gets under way, with the airport saying it will accommodate 150,000 passengers over the next two weeks.
Uel Hoey, the airport's business development director, said: "This is our busiest time of the year and we're seeing an uplift in activity which reflects an improving economic climate.
"We're fully prepared for the influx to the airport. As thousands are jetting off, thousands more will be arriving, so activity levels will be at an all-time high.
It's understood that Northern Ireland could soon have a direct air connection with Istabul if efforts by Belfast International Airport pay off.