New Ryanair routes hailed as good news for Northern Ireland's economy
Budget airline Ryanair's return to Northern Ireland been welcomed across the business, tourism and political spectrum.
And many - including FSB policy chairman Wilfred Mitchell - have reiterated calls to cut the level of air passenger duty (APD) "so that flights to and from Belfast can be priced more competitively, and subsequently build upon today's announcement to realise the potential of the local economy".
Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell welcomed the additional connectivity and new jobs, adding that "work to progress an Air Route Development Fund for Northern Ireland is ongoing and I intend to be in a position to announce the way forward before the end of the financial year".
Nigel Smyth, CBI Northern Ireland director, said that "first-class air connectivity is a vital growth stimulate for any modern economy and the additional routes provided by Ryanair's expansion will be a welcome boost to both the export and tourism sectors".
Yesterday's announcement is also "good news for tourism to Northern Ireland", according to Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland.
"We already work closely with Ryanair and we look forward to co-operating with them to maximise the promotion of this new flight from London Gatwick to Belfast.
"As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated - they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism."
Glyn Roberts, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association said:
"This is good news for our local economy and in particular, our retail sector.
"More air routes means more visitors and tourists, which is a boost to spending in our retail sector in Northern Ireland."
The SDLP's Patsy McGlone MLA, chairman of the Enterprise Trade and Investment Committee, said: "This multi-million pound expansion offers serious potential for tourism and business here and is expected to add one million passengers using Belfast International Airport every year. Along with the 750 new jobs immediately created by the airline, it could also help develop the Aldergrove site and the surrounding area, creating even more jobs."
Alliance leader and South Antrim MLA David Ford said the news would mean employment opportunities in the immediate area. "Airports can act as catalysts - they drive business activity and serve as platforms for enterprise. The airport is at the heart of my constituency and is now set to grow above the five million passenger mark in an exciting expansion."