Belfast Telegraph

Bmi Belfast airport move sparks Flybe fury

By Margaret Canning

A rival airline has reacted with anger to the decision of bmi baby to leave Belfast International Airport and fly from George Best Belfast City |instead.

Bmi baby said it wanted to offer passengers “more convenient services” on its four routes to East Midlands, Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester by moving to the City Airport in January.

Flybe, which flies from Belfast City to 17 UK routes including East Midlands, Birmingham, Cardiff and Manchester, said it would |make a “calculated and robust” response to bmi baby’s relocation.

Chief commercial officer Mike Rutter said: “We are concerned that this announcement is driven by an agenda which is much broader than serving the needs of the Northern Ireland community which raises broader concerns for Northern Ireland and UK aviation policy.

“There has been a trend over the last few years for airport assets to be bought for ever higher prices using debt finance.

“True competition in the market could be totally |distorted by cross subsidisation which in the long term will be destabilising.” He called for an urgent enquiry into the issue and the “formulation of a holistic Northern Ireland |aviation strategy”.

The news follows the announcement that Iceland Express will start flying from Belfast International next year.

A spokesman for Belfast International also called for an aviation strategy “that drives economic growth in the region as a whole”. The absence of a strategy means a considerable loss of economic opportunity.

“Our priority is to invest in the provision of new and vital direct access channels from key source markets such as the route to Reykjavik in Iceland that we announced and we will not be swayed in this strategic objective. The aim should be to develop the market, not splinter or replicate services to the detriment of the local economy.

“We are not in the business of re-arranging the existing business in the market with the aim of short-term objectives.

“We continue to strive to have the broad regional objectives of our business recognised and supported by Northern Ireland's policy-makers.”

Belfast Telegraph