Belfast Telegraph

Belfast International Airport suing Aer Lingus for £20 million over alleged breach of contract

By Alan Erwin

A £20 million lawsuit over Aer Lingus' decision to switch its Belfast operation will be heard next year, it was confirmed today.

Belfast International Airport (BIA) is suing the airline for alleged breach of contract following its move to George Best Belfast City Airport.

As the case came before the High Court today lawyers also confirmed that a forensic accountant has been obtained as part of the action.

Mr Justice Weatherup agreed to list the case for a full hearing in April.

Proceedings centre on the decision taken by Aer Lingus in 2012 to quit BIA.

At the time the Dublin-based carrier was mid-way through a 10-year deal to fly from Aldergrove.

But it switched its operations to the City Airport, to begin daily flights to London Heathrow and Gatwick.

It followed the closure of the BMI Baby service at the City which carried 400,000 passengers a year.

When the switch was announced Aer Lingus insisted it was a commercial decision to go to an airport with a  "strong history of business flying".

But Belfast International claimed the airline had been offered "an implausibly low deal on charges" to transfer its operation.

Its dismay over the defection has clearly not diminished, with the multi-million pound claim having now reached the High Court.

Aer Lingus strenuously denies any liability in the action.

During a brief mention in court today a lawyer for Belfast International confirmed today that preparations were "well advanced".

She added: "The plaintiff has also obtained a forensic accountant. We hope to have his report available before the Christmas break."

Based on that up-date, Mr Justice Weatherup consented to the case being heard on April 14 next year.

A further review will take place in January to ensure sufficient progress.

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