A LOVED one returning home in time for Christmas is the best present a family can receive.
As thousands of commuters travelled home through Northern Ireland's airports and ferry terminals yesterday, their families gathered to welcome them with open arms.
People from every corner of the UK, Europe and across the world have been arriving home to spend Christmas with their families, many shedding tears of joy upon seeing their family members walk through the sliding doors of the arrivals hall.
Northern Ireland's three airports, Belfast International, George Best Belfast City and City of Derry were awash with families and friends embracing one another in the arrivals halls. Around 250,000 people are expected to travel through our airports over the Christmas and New Year period, with thousands more arriving into our ports.
With strong winds and wintry showers forecast for Northern Ireland over the festive period, families said they were glad their loved ones were home safe and sound.
Families gathered patiently at George Best Belfast City Airport to wait for their loved ones, among them parents waiting for their daughter who was returning home from university, a man who had not seen his daughter in two years and a mother coming home to live in Northern Ireland after two decades living in Wales.
Passengers walking through Belfast International Airport got a nice surprise as golfer Rory McIlroy was also returning to Northern Ireland, arriving on a flight from New York.
Brian Ambrose, chief executive of George Best Belfast City Airport, said: "Christmas is certainly the busiest time of the year and the atmosphere in the terminal is always fantastic with choirs from our adopted schools performing carols and extra staff on board to ensure the smoothest of journeys for all our passengers.
"This has been a particularly busy year for Belfast City Airport with over 1.65 million passengers being transported through the terminal in the summer months alone. This is an increase of nearly 22% on the same period last year."
John Doran, managing director at Belfast International Airport, said: "Christmas is one of our busiest times and we are expecting around 60,000 passengers to use the airport in the few days before Christmas alone.
"It won't just be the passenger aircraft working hard, our cargo business will also be in full swing, making sure that all those presents are delivered in time for Christmas.
"While the airport has no scheduled flights on Christmas Day we still remain open should there be a requirement for diversions or medical emergencies," he added.