Traffic rise at Belfast airports as City of Derry falls
Passenger numbers at Northern Ireland's two biggest airports increased slightly in 2014 while traffic through City of Derry dropped by a steep 9%, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
Belfast International Airport also reacted last night to the temporary loss this month of its link to Barcelona, though the connection resumes next month.
Figures published by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority showed that George Best Belfast City Airport had more than 2.5m (2,555,111) passengers in 2014 - up 0.5% on 2013.
Belfast International Airport saw its passenger numbers grow by 0.2% to just over 4m (4,031,700) in the year. But City of Derry Airport suffered a 9% fall in its passenger numbers to 350,257, with a spokesman saying airports were facing challenging conditions, mainly due to air passenger duty.
Passengers were charged £13 APD on short-haul routes each way, a spokesman said.
"City of Derry Airport encourages all travellers within the local catchment to think about flight options from their local airport when making future travel arrangements in 2015," he added. "Whilst these latest passenger figures from CAA are disappointing, the airport is committed to growing future passenger numbers in 2015."
A spokesman for Belfast International Airport said: "We are pleased with the increase in passenger numbers in 2014.
"With 14 new routes announced for 2015 we are confident that the coming year will see a significant increase on last year's figures."
Belfast International has announced new routes for 2015, including Orlando, Las Vegas and Split in Croatia. It has also started flying to Iceland.
Meanwhile, Belfast City has launched new links to destinations including Amsterdam and Barcelona, with airlines KLM and Vueling respectively.
A spokeswoman for Belfast City Airport said it was "delighted" with the 2014 statistics.
"In the last two months alone we have welcomed the arrival of two new major airlines in the form of Vueling, which will operate flights to Barcelona from May onwards, and KLM, with direct flights to Amsterdam from May also. In addition to this, Flybe added two new routes from Belfast City to London City and Liverpool, as well as significantly growing its load factor across its network. While the route to London Gatwick has ceased, the airline has increased the frequency across existing routes for added convenience."
Meanwhile, easyJet confirmed it had suspended its link with Barcelona for the month of January as it introduces new routes from Belfast - but said it is to resume flying to the Spanish city from its base at Belfast International in February.
A spokeswoman said the services "resume twice weekly for February half term and onwards and go up to four times weekly in the summer."
"We are absolutely committed to the Belfast-Barcelona route and match capacity to peak passenger demand dependent on the time of year. Adjusting some of the schedules on some of our existing routes has enabled us to add exciting new destinations from our Belfast base such as Iceland and the forthcoming route to Split which commences this summer.
"We have no plans to make any further changes to our schedule."
A spokeswoman for Belfast International said: "Easyjet are very much committed to the Northern Ireland market. They have adjusted their timetables to allow for seasonal changes to certain routes, this in turn has freed up capacity to launch new routes such as Reykjavik and Split."
All three airports have faced stiff competition from Dublin Airport, which has held major marketing campaigns to attract northern travellers.
There were 21.7m travellers through Dublin in 2014, up 8% on the year before, the Dublin Airport Authority said last week.