EasyJet sees 6% rise in passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport
Easyjet has reported a 6% rise in passengers on its Belfast International flights.
The airline said it carried 2.1 million passengers between October 2018 and March 2019.
It followed an 8.8% growth at its Belfast International Airport operation in the year to September 2018.
EasyJet flies to 35 destinations from the airport at Aldergrove.
On Friday easyJet announced a £275m loss for the six months to March 31, with the airline blaming higher fuel costs and the Gatwick drone incident. The disruption from the December drone saga cost the firm £10m but easyJet said the loss was not unexpected and pointed to a 7.3% rise in revenues to £2.34bn, with a 13% rise in customers to 41 million.
Despite the challenges, easyJet's country manager Neil Slaven said: "I think it's worth putting that in context. A lot of airlines taking capacity out of the market, some airlines are in financial difficulty. We are really reaffirming our commitment to the market.
"We are increasing the investment in Belfast. We've been there 22 years now. While other airlines come and go, we're there for the long run. We've got 540 flights a week to the UK, including 34 flights a day between Belfast and London."
Mr Slaven said easyJet now has more standby aircraft on the ground at Aldergrove, which are called into action if anything goes wrong. Officially the airline has six aircraft based at Belfast International, but he said the number of inbound UK flights means that in reality, it operates on the level of a 17 aircraft base.
"It's a really big chunk of our entire UK network," he said.
Passengers at Belfast International Airport have faced problems with long security queues in recent months.
The airport announced in February that more security lanes would be installed to deal with the problem.
But the easyJet manager said he believed the problems had been resolved.
He said: "We have worked really closely with our partners at Belfast International to ensure the security that they provide is improving.
"We believe that the situation has now been resolved. We are continuing those discussions with the airport to make sure there's no repeat of that.
"My expectation is that we're now leaving that disruption behind us."
The latest figures for domestic air passengers from the Civil Aviation Authority show that in March 2016, there were 288,528 domestic passengers passing through the terminal at Belfast International Airport. However, in March 2019, there were 356,540, a 24% increase.
It put Belfast International at number three in the table of the UK's busiest airports for domestic travel, behind Edinburgh and Heathrow. The airport's managing director, Graham Keddie, said: "Our passenger numbers last year (6.3 million) were an all-time record and we expect to see that performance surpassed this year by as much as 200,000."