Belfast Telegraph

How Belfast International Airport is fighting economic turbulence

By Lesley Houston

Belfast International Airport is part of a global aviation industry which has seen fascinating progress – as well as the occasional set-back.

Under new ownership since last year, the airport continues to battle with competition from Dublin Airport, and faces the temporary loss of its link to Newark in the US in the first three months of next year.

But with a raft of new routes announced in recent months, the Northern Ireland travel hub is coming out fighting.

Business development director Uel Hoey told the Business Telegraph recently that the sale of the airport to ADC&HAS had resulted in a refocusing on its business and commercial development.

"The efforts of the past nine months are now reaping rewards with announcements from easyJet, Virgin Atlantic, Jet2 and Wizz Air in the last month," he said.

Asked about the race between Aldergrove and its Dublin counterpart to attract Northern Ireland passengers, he added: "The last six years or so have been a challenge for everyone economically.

"The market in Belfast and Northern Ireland has suffered, but not in the early days of the recession to the extent which Dublin Airport suffered, losing as they did over 5m annual passengers between 2008 and 2010.

"By necessity, there has been a more concerted sortie into the Northern Ireland market in an effort to replenish traffic volumes. They are currently drawing in well over a million Northern Ireland-resident passengers. This should not be seen as a threat, rather an opportunity."

The airport's pivotal role in helping deliver Northern Ireland's future prosperity also came in to sharp focus when United Airlines announced its decision to suspended the only direct service to the US – a service used by many inward investors.

The carrier announced in June that it was suspending the service to Newark Liberty International for the first three months of the year. That news came just one month after United stated it was "pleased with the success" of the service, which was established in 2005.

Belfast Telegraph