Terror attacks won't deter public from flying to France, say easyJet
Easyjet has said it is confident demand will pick up once again for its Belfast to France routes after the Paris terror attacks, as the airline saw a yearly increase in passenger numbers across its Northern Ireland routes.
The company's UK commercial manager, Ali Gayward, said she was "hoping" the impact of the shocking attacks on Friday would not affect the thousands of Northern Ireland football fans expected to make their way to France for next year's Euro 2016 tournament.
She told the Belfast Telegraph passenger numbers across routes here in the 12 months to September rose by nearly 3%. "Belfast passenger numbers increased by 2.9%, which was one of the highest across the UK," she added.
That was boosted by a gloomy summer here, seeing sunny destination-demand increase.
Mrs Gayward said a total of 3.6m passengers used easyJet's Northern Ireland routes during the last year, with that predicted to increase by a further 1-2%.
"It's the traditional markets, including Faro and Alicante, and some of the new routes, such as Iceland, which was also tremendously popular," she added.
She also told how easyjet was set to unveil yet another new route from its Belfast International hub early next year.
The company revealed bumper pre-tax profits of £681m for the 12 months to the end of September.
And Mrs Gayward is confident new routes such as Lanzarote and Lyon, will perform well. "We wouldn't [have introduced them] unless we were satisfied there was demand" she said.
Shares in easyJet dipped almost 4% on Monday as investors expressed concerns over the impact of the terror attacks on the travel and leisure sectors.
Speaking about the impact the devastating violence could have on the firm's three French routes which, aside from the capital, include Bordeaux and Lyon, Mrs Gayward said: "Through the years we have seen a number of terrorist attacks - Lockerbie, 9/11, 7/7 - and you do see a downturn in demand.
"But aviation is incredibly resilient and it does come back. It usually lasts for weeks, but what people do is defer making a decision.
"We are working with the Government over any additional security, but demand will soon pick up once again."
She also confirmed the airline was still in line to add a Belfast to Heathrow route once the London airport's proposed third runway gets under way.