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Passenger numbers at Belfast airports soar to seven million...but Derry traffic drops


New arrival: Ryanair

New arrival: Ryanair

New arrival: Ryanair

Passenger numbers have soared at our two main airports, with more than seven million passing through them last year.

Belfast International saw the biggest increase, with almost 4.4m passengers in 2015 - a rise of 9%.

Belfast City Airport handled 2.7m passengers, representing a leap of 5.4% year-on-year.

But City of Derry suffered a huge slump, according to the latest figures from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), with numbers down almost a fifth.

Belfast International Airport said its spike "reflected increased capacity by our airlines in response to a surge in demand".

"This year, that growth pattern is continuing and, if anything, it's stronger and more pronounced," a spokesman added.

"We expect 2016 will see further passenger growth with existing airlines adding capacity and, of course, the imminent arrival of Ryanair, which will base three aircraft at the airport and expects to carry up to one million passengers in the first full year of operations."

But the airport reiterated concerns from its managing director, Graham Keddie, that air passenger duty (APD) was continuing to act as a "drag" on progress.

"If we can make advances such as this with the drag of APD impeding progress, think what we could achieve for the Northern Ireland economy if we didn't have this regressive tax," an airport spokesman said.

It was also an excellent year for Belfast City Airport, according to commercial and marketing director Katy Best.

"We are once again very happy to report an increase in passenger numbers for 2015," she said.

"We were delighted to not only welcome KLM, which has successfully operated an Amsterdam route with consistently high load factors since May, but also to announce that Brussels Airlines will be operating a five-times weekly service to Brussels from March 2016. This is not only a new airline for Northern Ireland but a completely new route for the province.

"While continuing to maintain and grow a comprehensive domestic route network, we are happy with the direct European destinations secured in recent years and look forward to building upon that success and developing these connections in the future."

Belfast Telegraph