Brussels Airlines pulls Belfast route less than year after launch
Brussels Airlines has pulled its Belfast to Brussels route less than a year after it launched, it has emerged.
The route launched at the end of March last year, just days after the Brussels terror attacks. It flew from George Best Belfast City Airport five times a week.
The timing meant the route launched just days after 32 people were killed and more than 300 injured in three co-ordinated suicide bomb attacks in the Belgian capital.
During the attack, there was three explosions in the city – two at Brussels airport and a third at Maalbeek metro station.
A fourth bomb was found during a search at the airport. Extremist group ISIL later claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The Belfast route was expected to be popular with both tourists and business travellers.
And it marked the first time a Belgian airline had been based in either Northern Ireland or the Republic in 15 years.
Brussels Airlines - which is a member of the Lufthansa Group and Star Alliance - has no flights scheduled to leave from Belfast past the end of March.
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson tweeted that he was “disappointed” by the news. "Hope other airlines may be willing to take up this route and keep Northern Ireland connected to heart of Europe,” he added.
Speaking at the time the route was launched the airline said it was “imperative” Northern Ireland was well connected, adding that Brussels was the “heart of Europe”.
A spokeswoman for the airline said the route had been pulled as it was “not performing in line with our expectations". She said there were no plans to launch a replacement route from Dublin Airport.
Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson expressed his disappointment at the decision.
He said: "The news that Brussels Airlines has cancelled its Belfast City route less than a year after it was launched is a huge disappointment for Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland had gone many years without this important route, and it took much hard work to secure it last year. This leaves Northern Ireland once again without a direct link to the hub of EU decision-making, and all of the business and tourism potential that brings.
“This is a lost opportunity and I hope other airlines will look to take up this route to keep Northern Ireland connected to the heart of Europe.”