Belfast Telegraph

Recuperating easyJet opts to stick with International

By Margaret Canning and Graeme Evans

Budget airline easyJet said it will stay at Belfast International Airport as it announced an improvement in its six-month losses.

EasyJet, which flies to 17 destinations from Belfast International, posted losses of £112m for the six months to March 31, an improvement of £41m on a year ago.

An uninterrupted service thanks to milder winter weather offset a rise in fuel costs for Europe's fourth-biggest short-haul carrier

Regional director Paul Simmons said the airline would remain at International and would not be moving to George Best Belfast City Airport, which will lose bmibaby's 11 routes when the budget airline shuts its Belfast operation next month.

Mr Simmons said: "We undertook a trial of Belfast City Airport with a relocation of our Luton service there, but saw no tangible benefits, and therefore consolidated all of our flying back at the International Airport. The limitations on payload caused by the runway present a severe financial disadvantage to our operations from the City Airport to all but short Great Britain domestic routes, whereas Belfast International Airport satisfies all of our operational needs, as well as serving travellers throughout Northern Ireland better than the City Airport.

"Belfast International Airport is also ideally located for access for customers travelling from border counties."

EasyJet will not announce any new routes - such as bmibaby's link to Mahon in Menorca - in the wake of its announcement.

Mr Simmons said that new services to Malta, Manchester, London Southend and Birmingham had been unveiled in the last year, while frequency to Amsterdam and Geneva had increased.

"Our ongoing commitment to Northern Ireland is reflected in our intention to continue adding more capacity and new routes wherever we can."

EasyJet had not been interested in bmibaby, which was reluctantly acquired by British Airways parent International Airlines Group (IAG) when it bought BMI in a £172.5m deal. "We saw no benefit in acquiring (bmibaby), and indeed this opinion has been shared by others who have evaluated the business."

Mr Simmons said he was "surprised" by the timing of the closure of bmibaby in Belfast, adding: "It's a shame they have left people in the lurch in Belfast when they have chosen not to (close summer operations) in Birmingham and East Midlands."