Third runway at Heathrow 'would link Northern Ireland to 40 new destinations'
Heathrow airport has unveiled a five-pledge plan to help boost Northern Ireland's economy and add 40 new long-haul links as it continues to campaign for a third runway.
Meanwhile, Belfast City Airport's chief, Brian Ambrose, has written to UK Transport Minister Robert Goodwill, backing Heathrow's plans for a third runway at the sprawling London hub.
He said that despite growth in the number of direct flights from Belfast, Heathrow is "still required in order to facilitate mid to long-haul connectivity beyond Europe".
The moves come ahead of a Government decision on whether to allow Heathrow - one of the world's busiest airports - to build the additional runway.
The Airports Commission has said Heathrow was best-placed to provide capacity, but the Government hasn't decided whether to go ahead with the extension.
Heathrow says the third runway could open up Northern Ireland to 40 new destinations.
It also says it will "meet tough environmental and noise" standards with the new runway and will improve connectivity to and from the province.
Heathrow is currently only connected to Northern Ireland through direct flights from Belfast City Airport.
Currently, both Aer Lingus and British Airways fly to the London base.
On Thursday, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye claimed the expansion could create 5,000 new jobs here.
Mr Holland-Kaye said the airport "keeps Northern Ireland ahead in the world". He continued: "If Heathrow falls behind, Britain and our nations fall behind. That means fewer jobs and less security for families. That is why we must have runway capacity that is fit for the future and build it now.
"Economic security, more routes to more airports in Northern Ireland bringing more competition and choice, outward-looking abroad but fair to our neighbours at home - that is the promise of our manifesto.
"We need people across the country to let the Prime Minster and the Government know that they cannot just hope for a stronger economy and country - they need to choose it and the right choice is Heathrow."
Mr Ambrose said an "expanded Heathrow hub is vital in making Northern Ireland accessible to business and leisure passengers from all corners of the globe, and maximising on the growth the region has experienced and readied itself for of late".
In his letter to the UK Transport Minister, Mr Ambrose stated that "given the population of Northern Ireland, direct routes to such destinations (medium and long-haul) are not sustainable".