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Axing levy 'would save City Airport from perfect storm'

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Belfast City Airport

Belfast City Airport

Belfast City Airport

Removing a tax on short-haul flights would help save Belfast City Airport from a "perfect storm", according to its chief executive.

George Best Belfast City Airport lost two-thirds of its passenger base and more than 500 weekly services to and from 12 destinations across the UK following the collapse of the Flybe airline.

Airport chief Brian Ambrose spoke with transport minister Kelly Tolhurst on the serious implications of Covid-19 for the airline industry. The Chancellor makes a Budget statement today.

Mr Ambrose said: "This, coupled with the demise of Flybe, has positioned Belfast City Airport at the centre of a perfect storm as it seeks new airlines.

"The removal or phased reduction of air passenger duty (APD) is one mechanism that the Government could enact in the Budget that would go some way to rebalancing the economy.

"Safeguarding regional connectivity is essential if we are to thrive as an island off an island."

Business bodies in Northern Ireland also urged the Chancellor to scrap domestic APD. Construction firms who have built up significant business in Great Britain since the 2008 economic crash are among those most affected by the loss of the flights.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the CBI, Institute of Directors, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Centre for Competitiveness said: "The collapse of Flybe has significantly reduced Northern Ireland's air connectivity with the regions of the UK.

"Our membership relied heavily on the Flybe network and accounted for a large proportion of the 1.6 million passengers that utilised the airline to and from Belfast in 2019."

They said the abolition of APD would "kick-start regional air connectivity in Belfast whilst assisting airports such as Belfast City as they pursue new airlines to fill these routes in a difficult environment".

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