Sky high figures for Aldergrove and now it targets 6m mark
Belfast International Airport carried a record 5.84 million passengers in 2017 - and is now aiming to crack the 6m mark this year.
An average of 16,000 passengers used the hub each day last year. The total figure for 2017 was up around 17% - or 700,000 people - on 2016.
Its busiest day was July 11, when 24,000 customers passed through the terminal, while on December 22 it dealt with 20,000.
The airport was boosted by the announcement of new easyJet routes to Valencia, Naples and the Isle of Man, and by the building of a £5m Premier Inn nearby.
Managing director Graham Keddie said he was confident it will break the 6m passenger mark this year.
"All the signs from our airlines are positive," he said.
"There's hundreds of thousands of additional seats on offer to our 72 destinations, which makes Belfast International a more attractive proposition.
"We're also predicting the best year ever for direct in-bound tourism.
"The more visitors we can attract directly to Northern Ireland without a stop either in the Republic of Ireland or in GB, the better for Northern Ireland.
"The pound-euro exchange rate remains favourable, and that means we will continue to see a most welcome increase in the number of passengers from the Republic of Ireland. Similarly, no loss on the exchange rate means there's better value for holidaymakers from the UK mainland opting for Northern Ireland rather than the Republic of Ireland.
"We'll be investing more in 2018, some £8.8m, in several capital expenditure programmes, which is obviously good news for local contractors and their supply chain.
"In line with passenger growth, companies based at the airport will be creating up to 250 new posts, which is great news for the immediate local economy."
He said he was continuing to lobby MPs and MLAs to push for a lower rate of air passenger duty (APD), the £13 tax on most flights from the UK.
"I'm grateful for the support we've already received in this fight, but I think now is the time to up our game to let Government see that there's broad-based support for action to be taken to end APD, which places Northern Ireland at a clear disadvantage to our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland," he added.