City airport claims airline coup
George Best Belfast City Airport is claiming a significant coup after capturing a major operator from the International airport.
Bmibaby announced it was shifting its flights from Aldergrove in January.
The budget airline said it was moving its Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and East Midlands services to the east Belfast facility because it offered a more convenient location.
The move will provide a fillip for the City only months after Ryanair pulled out of the airport in frustration at ongoing planning process delays in approving a proposed runway extension that would enable it to fly to more European destinations.
And while it is not good news for the International, it also represents a challenge for rival operator Flybe, which already flies from the City to the same destinations.
Bmibaby's parent company bmi British Midland International already operates a frequent route to Heathrow from the City.
Chief executive of bmi Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said it made sense to operate all of the group's business out of one airport in Northern Ireland. "Bmi British Midland International has a long and proud connection with Northern Ireland, serving the city of Belfast for over 26 years," he said.
"It makes obvious business sense to have the bmi group airlines serving the same Belfast airport. The group's physical presence at the airport is also increased and customers now have an excellent range of bmi group UK destinations available."
The shift will see up to 48 weekly flights leaving from the City rather than Aldergrove.
Brian Ambrose, chief executive at the City, welcomed the move, saying: "This is great news, not only for the 1,500 people employed here but the wider community who rely on the airport's continuing success."