Belfast Telegraph

Emirates chief admits he’s no plans for direct Belfast to Dubai flight

By John Mulgrew

A direct flight between Belfast and Dubai is still some way off, according to the boss of Emirates in Ireland.

But Enda Corneille told the Belfast Telegraph the number of passengers from Northern Ireland using its Dublin services has increased by around 25% in the last year.

And he said a multi-million pound bailout package to save the Belfast to New York route “tells a tale” about how international links perform here.

Speaking about bringing a regular route to Belfast International Airport, he said: “We were up a couple of months ago, and met with Invest NI. It’s an airport of interest to us, and in its favour there is an active business community.

“That shows a commitment.

“There are no plans for it at the moment. Never say never, but it’s not on the cards at the moment.”

And he said the model is “all or nothing”.

Emirates now runs a double-daily flight from Dublin to Dubai, and onwards to around 140 different locations.

Around 20% of flights finish in Dubai, with 80% going on to other destinations.

It now deals with 22,000 passengers a month and 1,500 tonnes of cargo.

Speaking about the links and the volume of Northern Ireland passengers using the route, Mr Corneille said: “We were looking at this the other day. (The increase in traffic) is about 25-30% compared with last year.”

Emirates now has a dedicated sales team in Belfast in order to meet demand for the routes.

“It’s a mixture of business and leisure,” he said.

“Business is about 35%, and 65% of it is leisure. That’s quite high. People are travelling for business, and people are travelling for leisure to just treat themselves.”

Speaking about the overall performance of the Dublin flights, Mr Corneille said: “The flights are around 80% full and are very good. They are big aircraft and there are 22,000 passengers a month — that’s going to go up in 2017.”

And he said “there is more gas in the tank” when it comes to growing the frequency of flights, or expanding routes.

Speaking about plans for Belfast, Mr Corneille said while it could be on the cards down the line, the close proximity to Dublin remains a difficulty.

“The model is all or nothing. For our business, you have to have the frequency,” he said.

Asked whether the issues around Northern Ireland’s only transatlantic route, linking Belfast to New York’s Newark airport with United Airlines, would help sway any decision to come here, he said: “That tells a tale. All that goes into the mix. We tend to have a pretty good record in getting routes right.

“A lot of scrutiny goes into it. At the same time, there is no slowing in Northern Ireland customers travelling out of Dublin (to Dubai).”

Dublin Airport was the fastest growing major airport in Europe in the first six months of this year, according to the latest figures released.

Belfast Telegraph

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