Emirates Northern Ireland passenger numbers soar by 50% at Dublin Airport
The boss of airline Emirates says the number of Northern Ireland passengers using its Dubai flights from Dublin has increased by more than 50% in one year.
Enda Corneille told the Belfast Telegraph that the airline had grown to two flights each day from Dublin, in the space of one year.
It now carries up to 800 passengers each day to Dubai, and onwards to a further 150 destinations.
"The news is that we have just celebrated five years into Dublin. We have carried 1.2 million passengers in that time and 120,000 tonnes of cargo," he said.
"We started off with a single aircraft, and now it's double daily. And given how much the business has grown, the next logical step would be to bring a flagship aircraft, such as the A380.
"The earliest that could happen would be summer 2018."
Speaking about business among passengers from Northern Ireland, he said: "Our business from Northern Ireland is plus 51% on last year, people getting the bus or driving down. So, huge growth. Dubai is one of the most popular destinations, long haul, for Northern Ireland passengers. We have staff in Belfast. Northern Ireland leisure customers, business customers, exporters are using the service."
Mr Corneille added that customers from here were opting to travel to Dublin to fly to the Middle East, rather than going through hubs such as London.
And while he said setting up in Belfast was "not on the cards at the moment ... who knows where the business is going".
Speaking about whether the airline would be less inclined to move to Belfast if competitors - such as Etihad, which has discussed setting up here - came into the market, he said: "It's hard to look into the future. We are used to competition.
"If competition comes on, if one came on from Belfast, we would have to compete with them."
Emirates now has 14 weekly flights to the Middle East on a Boeing 777, which can hold 362 passengers.
According to Mr Corneille, the load factor of the aircrafts are around 80 to 85% on average.