New easyJet destinations from Belfast could create up to 175 new jobs
The arrival of three new easyJet routes from Belfast to Spain, Italy and the Isle of Man could create as many as 175 new jobs, it's been claimed.
The carrier is adding the new links to Valencia, Naples in Italy, and the Isle of Man, flying from Belfast International Airport.
The flights will start in June next year.
Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport, said it's "more good news" and the airport will hope to crack six million passengers next year.
"The three new routes, and the six aircraft - it thickens up the routes, and it means more jobs for this place and shows the commitment of easyJet to Northern Ireland," he said.
"They are the biggest carrier in Northern Ireland by a long way. The next would be Flybe, then Ryanair.
"They go to 31 routes from the airport, and are estimating 4.5 million passengers."
He said, with a predicted extra 300,000 passengers in the next year, an additional 175 staff could be added, directly and indirectly, as a result of the expansion.
The new Isle of Man flights will operate twice a week, while Naples and Valencia will run during the summer season.
Ali Gayward, UK country manager at easyJet, said: "While we have five aircraft, we are now adding a sixth. Belfast is huge to us. In addition to the three new routes, we are adding capacity, adding extra rotation on key domestic markets."
That includes greater frequency on routes to England and Scotland.
EasyJet is also adding an extra flight each week to its French routes in Paris and Bordeaux.
Mrs Gayward added: "EasyJet is the largest airline in NI, but one thing we look at is offering the best frequency. We spend a lot of time working with airports at both ends of the routes."
She said that while the airline doesn't put an exact figure on direct jobs created, it's normally around 30 staff for each additional aircraft.
"That's pilots and cabin crew but there is also the ground handling," she said.
Ms Gayward says it's continuing to lobby both the UK and EU to ensure there is a suitable replacement to the 'open skies' agreement, once Brexit has taken place.
Meanwhile, the prospect of disruption at Ryanair's Irish operations is looming after disgruntled pilots voted to endorse possible industrial action at the carrier.
The ballots, held in recent days by staff Ryanair pilots in Dublin who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA), saw cockpit crew vote overwhelmingly for possible action as they fight to secure collective bargaining rights in Ireland across Europe.