More than six out of 10 people in Northern Ireland would rather fly from George Best Belfast City Airport than its rival Belfast International Airport, according to an opinion poll.
And more than half think that growth at the City Airport is important to Northern Ireland’s future economic growth.
A recent LucidTalk opinion poll asked respondents which of Northern Ireland’s two biggest airports they prefer to fly from.
The poll found that 63.2% of those asked said they favoured the City Airport.
Respondents were also asked whether they agreed or disagreed that growth at Belfast City Airport was important to Belfast and Northern Ireland’s future economic growth, given its current restrictions to passenger numbers and flights.
The survey found that 31.4% strongly agreed and 24.6% agreed — a total of 56%. Some 23% didn’t know, 16.8% disagreed and 4.1% strongly disagreed.
Belfast City Airport has been at the centre of a row with government officials and regulators over restrictions on flight and passenger numbers.
The airport has been pushing for the cap on the amount of seats that can be sold at the airport to be removed. These plans have been met with opposition from residents who live in the surrounding areas of the flight path and are campaigning for stricter noise controls on the airport.
The debate on air provisions for Northern Ireland has seen plans for an extension to the City Airport’s runway ditched, Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary withdraw flights from Belfast and Aer Lingus switch camps from Belfast International Airport to the City Airport, in the past two years.
Belfast City Airport Watch, a group acting for local residents affected by aircraft noise, said stricter noise controls would not stand in the way of strong aviation links to Northern Ireland.
Liz Fawcett, chair of Belfast City Airport Watch, said: “As a residents’ group, our concern is that the Northern Ireland Executive should provide robust regulation of aircraft noise so that residents can enjoy the health and quality of life they deserve.
“It’s perfectly possible to ensure that residents have sufficient protection from aircraft noise, while at the same time ensuring that aviation plays whatever role is deemed desirable in Northern Ireland’s economic growth — the two objectives are perfectly |compatible. The Department of the Environment received over 1,300 responses to a public consultation on the airport’s proposals for removing the seats for sale restriction and significantly raising what is the current effective noise threshold.
“We understand that the majority of those submissions objected to the proposal, largely due to concerns about the potential noise impact.”
In response, a spokeswoman for Belfast International Airport said: “Fundamentally passengers’ choice of airport is driven by the location from which airlines operate, destinations served and overall value for money.
“Over 50% of all Northern Ireland air passengers choose one specific airline product — easyJet, from Belfast International Airport — and that is the more relevant statistic”.
More than 1,000 people from across Northern Ireland were asked questions about the two airports. The cross-section included men and women of all ages and religions from every socio-economic group.
We work for both residents and fliers
By Katy Best
IN recent years, the airport has made investments to upgrade our facilities, enhance our product offering and grow our route network to make travelling a more pleasurable experience for our passengers and to increase consumer choice.
George Best Belfast City Airport is one of the most restricted airports in Europe, the only one with a limit to the amount of seats we can sell each year.
Removal of this restriction would directly and indirectly generate an additional 350 jobs and £22.4m of economic growth to the region which cannot be overlooked, especially in today’s economic climate.
We work hard to balance our business growth with the need to protect the quality of life for residents and environment.
We will continue to go that extra mile to meet our passengers’ needs and look forward to a very busy 2013. Next year we will celebrate our 30th anniversary, launch European routes and strive to maintain our position as Northern Ireland’s favourite airport.
Katy Best is commercial and marketing director with George Best Belfast City Airport