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Belfast should not have two airports, pilots tell MPs

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George Best Belfast City Airport

George Best Belfast City Airport

PA Wire/Press Association Images

George Best Belfast City Airport

Belfast should no longer be served by two airports, MPs have been told.

Airline pilots said they “did not see the sense” in having George Best and Aldergrove airports competing against each other.

Responding to a union survey, most members said maintaining the City Airport but with a longer runway would be the best option.

Speaking at Westminster yesterday, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BAPA) said moving to one airport would be “a brave thing to do, but the right thing to do”.

But the Consumer Council for Northern Ireland said the current set-up should stay, because it offers passengers a choice.

They were appearing before the Commons Northern Ireland Select Committee, which is investigating Northern Ireland’s air links with the rest of the UK and beyond.

Jim McAuslan, the general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, said: “The people that responded to our survey did not see the sense of two airports, 14 miles apart... it was an over capacity, and the wrong sort of capacity because the one that seems the most sensible has got the shortest runway, or not the appropriate runway.”

Asked by SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell which solution was put forward, he added: “If our members had a say... the ones that responded to the poll were giving the indication it would be City Airport with a longer runway.”

However, safety concerns had to be taken into account, he said.

Earlier, Antoinette McKeown, (left) the Consumer Council chief executive, had been asked a similar question.

She said: “They are both private concerns. They do not take money from the public purse.

“Once competition was effectively intro

duced, both airports have doubled in size. For us, they are offering consumer choice, and sustainability seems to be there.”

Meanwhile, concerns were raised about the acquisition of BMI by British Airways, which has triggered fears that shorthaul services to Northern Ireland could be cut back.

The Consumer Council said IAG, BA’s parent company, had not provided it with an assurance that provision would not be reduced, “despite repeated requests”.

In its submissions to the committee, BAPA said that pilots’ pensions had been hit “dramatically” by the takeover.

The union gave the example of a pilot who had worked for BMI for 24 years and had seen a £43,000 pension reduced to £25,000.

The committee is looking at Northern Ireland’s air links in light of the Government’s Civil Aviation Bill, which will change the way the industry is regulated.

It is also examining the BMI takeover and the wider issues around NI’s connections, including whether it would benefit from a third runway at Heathrow.

Belfast Telegraph