KLM plans Belfast to Amsterdam link
A daily service from Belfast to Amsterdam by Dutch national carrier KLM is to be launched in May.
The airline will fly from George Best Belfast City Airport and offer greater access to global destinations through connections at Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands, a statement from the Northern Ireland airport said.
Air links with South America, the Middle East and Far East will be strengthened through KLM's membership of an alliance with other carriers, ensuring easier transfers of passengers and baggage.
The airport is the only one in the UK or Ireland included in expansion plans announced by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
Belfast City Airport commercial director Katy Best said: "Attracting an airline such as KLM to Northern Ireland is a major win for the airport, tourism within the region and local businesses who will benefit from KLM's worldwide network."
Schiphol is the linchpin of the KLM network and is one of the busiest airports in Europe, serving over 300 destinations.
It includes transfer facilities for passengers on popular routes like Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Moscow, Johannesburg and Bangkok.
KLM is part of the SkyTeam Alliance with airlines including Air France, Alitalia, China Southern Airlines, Aeroflot, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Czech Airlines and Saudia.
Belfast City Airport has expanded rapidly in recent years, with British Airways and Irish carrier Aer Lingus offering services to Heathrow and onward routes.
Ms Best added: "KLM places significant emphasis on customer service and offers a product that is flexible, comfortable and desirable for each and every passenger, making the airline a perfect fit for Belfast City Airport where continuously enhancing the passenger experience remains a priority."
With imports of goods from the Netherlands increasing in recent years and the country being one of the largest export markets in the EU for Northern Ireland manufacturers, this route ensures daily connectivity with major export and business markets identified by government jobs agency Invest Northern Ireland, the spokeswoman said.
She continued: "KLM's connectivity to many source markets will be particularly appealing to Northern Ireland for both business opportunities and tourism development."
KLM has been part of the Air France/KLM group since a merger in 2004.
It is one of the leading European air transport groups, with hubs at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam-Schiphol.
KLM is the second large European airline to announce operations from Belfast City Airport in recent months after Vueling's decision to commence a service to Barcelona from May.
Stormont Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster said the Amsterdam route would improve access to business and tourism markets abroad.
"Air connectivity plays a crucial role in growing our economy and the access to a KLM service will provide global markets with help to ensure that Northern Ireland becomes even more accessible for those who wish to visit or do business here."
Niall Gibbons, chief executive officer of Tourism Ireland, said: "Not only will it help grow visitor numbers from the Netherlands, but this new flight will offer connectivity from other important tourism markets, including North America, Asia and the Middle East.
"We look forward to co-operating with KLM to maximise the promotion of this new service from Amsterdam to Belfast. As an island, the importance of convenient, direct, non-stop flights cannot be overstated - they are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism."