Belfast Telegraph

Belfast International Airport flying high as number of passengers expected to hit 5m this year

By Joanne Sweeney

Passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport have risen to 370,000 for March, up 12% on the same period last year.

And managing director Graham Keddie has said that it could break the five million passenger barrier by the end of the year.

He also revealed to the Belfast Telegraph that the airport has capacity for another million passengers.

Passenger traffic has been boosted by increased capacity from easyJet, transatlantic airline United and holiday airlines Jet2 and Thomas Cook.

And the announcement that Ryanair is bringing eight new routes to the airport will also help to grow passenger numbers as the bulk of its flights go live in the autumn.

And combined with passenger traffic from Belfast City Airport - which is also expected to increase this year - Northern Ireland's two main airports could be flying nearly eight million passengers by the end of 2016.

The new figures show that more than 370,000 passengers travelled through the airport last month.

It was also confirmed that the upward trend was continuing, as passengers had increased by 16% since January.

The news comes as Jet2 and Jet2holidays announced Costa Brava as a new holiday destination from Belfast International as part of its summer 2017 programme.

It will be offering 280,000 seats across its 14 European holiday destinations and says that this is 10% extra capacity on this summer's flights.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said he is feeling positive about the success of the airline's eight new routes flying from Belfast International.

While Ryanair started its flights to Gatwick in March, the bulk of its flights will start later this year.

Mr O'Leary has predicted that Ryanair will attract one million passengers at Belfast International.

The routes include Berlin and Krakow, alongside popular sun destinations such as Malaga and Tenerife.

Meanwhile, last month's announcement by outgoing Enterprise Minister Jonathan Bell that a £4m fund to develop new air routes over the next three years was welcomed by both Belfast airports.

Mr Keddie (left) said: "We could go to six million passengers per year, but as in all airports, it's all about managing the peak. If the peak keeps on growing, we will probably have to increase capacity in certain areas.

"We have already kicked off an internal group to see what we can do to achieve this and are always talking to new airlines."

Belfast City Airport saw close to 2.7 million passengers in 2015, which was more than 5% up on 2014's overall figures.

A spokeswoman said that the airport was expecting a further passenger increase in 2016.

5 million

Number of passengers that could pass through Aldergrove this year

Belfast Telegraph