A direct air link with the US has contributed at least £50m to Northern Ireland’s economy in the last five years, guests at an anniversary reception heard yesterday.
Continental Airlines said it had carried around 500,000 people between Belfast International and Newark Liberty International in New York since it started flying on the route in 2005.
And Tourism Ireland said the link had contributed at least £50m to Northern Ireland’s economy in the past five years, while Invest NI said the connection had made a “huge impact” on the wider business economy.
At a reception to mark the route’s anniversary, Continental’s vice president Jim Summerford said: “The Belfast-New York service has been a remarkable success, with over half a million passengers using the service in the last five years.
“As the only trans-Atlantic carrier serving Belfast, Continental has been able to give people a convenient way of flying direct to and from America without having to travel via Dublin or Heathrow.
“Northern Ireland and the US enjoy strong social ties and business links and we’re delighted to have helped support and develop these relationships with our non-stop flights.”
Business leaders said they had benefited from the route, including Alan Armstrong, chief executive of pharmaceutical company Almac. “The US remains at the forefront of the world’s knowledge-rich industries including biotech and pharma and if Northern Ireland is to compete globally we must have access to these markets.”
John Doran, managing director of Belfast International Airport, said it was proud of the route’s success.
He said: “We will continue to work closely with Continental Airlines to grow and develop this route to the benefit of the entire region.”