Ryanair will consider further expansion of its network from Belfast - including additional services to London - if air passenger duty (APD) is slashed or axed altogether, according to chief executive Michael O'Leary.
The airline boss told shareholders at Ryanair's annual general meeting in Dublin yesterday that the carrier was not currently planning to launch a route between Belfast and London Luton, but said the company was in talks with management at both Luton Airport and Belfast International Airport about the possibility.
He said that the carrier was also in talks with Stansted Airport - Ryanair's biggest base - about a route between the two destinations.
"The problem with those domestic routes is you have air passenger duty on both legs of the flight," Mr O'Leary said.
"When you're selling fares at £9 and £15, then £13 in tax each way represents £26 of taxes. I think we have better destinations out of Belfast rather than London."
Ryanair currently serves Berlin, London Gatwick, Milan Bergamo and Wroclaw in Poland from Belfast.
The low cost carrier made a return to Northern Ireland earlier this year, and now flies 11 routes from here.
It opened a new base at Belfast International Airport last March. The airline quit Belfast in 2010 after terminating services from Belfast City over delays in plans to extend the runway.
"We would be very supportive of the statements coming out of the Northern Ireland Assembly that when they have autonomy over the travel tax they're talking about reducing or eliminating the APD for travel to and from Belfast," Mr O'Leary said.
"Under those circumstances, it would certainly encourage us to consider more domestic flights out of Belfast."
It comes as the Executive is poised to step in with a funding package to save the troubled City of Derry Airport.
The loss-making terminal's future was dealt a heavy blow this week with Ryanair's decision to cut its services to London Stansted and Faro and reduce its flights to Liverpool.