Low cost airline bmiBaby sees potential to add more flights from Belfast in future, but will not rush to expand in the short-term as the airline industry recovers from a shaky few years.
Managing director Julian Carr, who took up the reins at the Castle Donington-based carrier on April 1, said it is evaluating growth opportunities as part of a five-year business plan being put together for German parent company Lufthansa.
Mr Carr said Lufthansa, which bought Bmi Group last year, is "very committed" to the business as it presents a "huge entry point into the UK low cost market".
"The low cost sector is the future of short haul travel. At the end of the day people don't want to spend money they don't need to and that gives us great potential. We're at the point where we have the opportunity to grow if the justification is there," he said in Belfast yesterday.
Mr Carr said Belfast is the airline's most important location after its aircraft bases in Manchester, East Midlands, Cardiff and Birmingham.
"For us to take the next step of growth would be to find opportunities from here that fit well with our current network. In the short- term, before 2011, that's unlikely to be new routes out of Belfast. I wouldn't want to just switch on one route, because if we are going to grow its about growing to make it worthwhile. Longer term there are opportunities," said Mr Carr.
"At the moment the capacity is right. The industry has just come out of two very difficult years with recession and fuel prices."
Speaking about the volcanic ash disruption that grounded UK flights for a week Mr Carr said that European compensation regulations for stranded passengers are unfair, adding: "We shouldn't be on the hook for it but realistically we will comply with the law."