Belfast Telegraph

Flybe adds to its Belfast service as passengers rise

By John Mulgrew

George Best Belfast City Airport is increasing its services to London City to meet growing demand among business travellers as it predicts overall passenger numbers will soar by 12% this year.

Flybe will add another daily flight from the airport to London City next week, according to Belfast City Airport chief executive Brian Ambrose.

Flights will be bumped up to four each day, including weekends, buoyed on by an increase in business passengers working in Belfast's financial sectors.

And Mr Ambrose told the Belfast Telegraph he had no concerns about the impact an IAG takeover of Aer Lingus could have on the frequency of flights to Heathrow.

He said he was "absolutely" sure both the Irish state airline and British Airways would continue their daily route if the £1bn deal was successful.

The airport boss was joined by the head of London City Airport, Dublin man Declan Collier, during a flying visit to Belfast yesterday.

"If you look at the skyline of Belfast a decade ago, there has been a dramatic transformation," Mr Ambrose said.

"Titanic Quarter, Citi, Allen & Overy - there is now a huge amount of traffic going between Belfast and Canary Wharf and that area of London.

"The route has outperformed our expectations. It's also proven very popular from a leisure point of view."

And the flights are busy, according to London City's Declan Collier.

"The fact that they have decided to add another rotation means they are heading up to the 70% (capacity) mark," he said.

"It's about the growth of the financial services centre here in Belfast, connecting to London.

"London City Airport is 10 minutes from Canary Wharf. It means business people are maximising the amount of time they can spend in their meetings."

Belfast City Airport handled almost 2.6m passengers in 2014 - and it expects that number to grow considerably this year. Meanwhile, a new report commissioned by Heathrow has forecast Northern Ireland could benefit from 5,000 new jobs and an additional £4bn towards the economy if a third runway is built at the airport.

Mr Collier said. "Point to point from a business view, London City beats Heathrow hands down.

"Even if the government make a timely decision following the election, it's 15 years away before the capacity would be in place - that's a long time."

"The London airport system is the busiest in the world - that will grow by about 30 million passengers over the next five to 10 years. It's running out of capacity."

He said London City offered a 'complimentary system' to the routes into Heathrow.

And both airport bosses are confident a cut in air passenger duty could lead to substantial growth.

"I think APD is an anomaly in a market which you are trying to make efficient," Declan Collier said.

"It is simply making it more expensive for someone to travel from Belfast to London - or vice versa. That doesn't make a lot of sense.

"There's a body of evidence which says when you remove taxes like this, you actually generate more wealth, than less wealth."

Belfast Telegraph