Belfast Telegraph

Belfast International Airport boss has 'no concerns' over future of New York service

By John Mulgrew

Belfast International Airport boss Graham Keddie said he has "no concerns" over the future of its New York link after new figures show a boost in Northern Ireland holidaymakers choosing to fly from Dublin.

The number of Northern Ireland residents using Dublin Airport has shot up by 50% - with New York the most popular destination, new figures have shown.

Some 864,000 people used the airport in 2014 - a rise of more than half in the space of just 12 months. And it's holidaymakers that are making are up the numbers.

New York tops the destination board, followed by London Heathrow and Manchester.

United Airlines' Belfast International Airport to Newark airport in New York is Northern Ireland's only transatlantic flight - and the only one linking the region with the US.

And air passenger duty (APD) was scrapped on the flight in order to save the key route.

But it was suspended between January and mid-March this year.

Belfast International Airport's managing director Graham Keddie said the route was "not a concern" and remained confident about its future here, despite the high levels of Dublin to New York traffic.

"We will keep it and we are working with United - it is not a big issue. United have come back strongly and they are happy," he said.

And he reiterated the push for scrapping APD on all flights in Northern Ireland, including short-haul flights, in order to make airports here more competitive with the Republic - where air passenger duty has been scrapped outright.

"The big issue is APD, and it's so glaring, especially when you have an airport that's two and a half hours away which has grown by 52%. We are just handing jobs down the road. We will work hard to get airlines in and continue pushing on APD."

Northern Ireland holidaymakers made up almost half of all those travelling out of Dublin last year, with just 8% of traffic on business trips.

And more than a third of Northern Ireland residents are using Dublin to visit family or relatives.

Meanwhile, Dublin Airport has said it is expecting further growth from the Northern Ireland market this year. And it says "route choice" is the main reason people are choosing to fly out of the airport, according to spokesman Paul O'Kane.

"Route choice is the main reason why consumers in Northern Ireland opt for Dublin Airport, while cheaper flights, better flight times and more frequent flights also score highly," he said.

"Dublin Airport continued to expand its market share in Northern Ireland last year, as consumers responded to our extensive route network and the huge choice that we now offer.

"We saw strong growth in Northern Ireland passengers choosing Dublin Airport for services to continental European, long-haul and UK provincial destinations last year."

Belfast Telegraph