Almost 900,000 customers carried on route since launch
United Airlines today celebrated a decade of nonstop flights between Belfast and its New York hub, Newark Liberty International Airport. The airline has carried a total of almost 900,000 customers on the route since its launch in 2005.
Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister, Jonathan Bell, and U.S. Consul General Gregory Burton joined airline and airport officials and other dignitaries at a ceremony to mark the anniversary at Belfast International Airport.
“United is proud to reach this milestone as the operator of the only scheduled nonstop trans-Atlantic service from Northern Ireland,” said Bob Schumacher, the airline’s Managing Director Sales – U.K. & Ireland. “We are grateful to all the people who have supported us over the past decade – customers, local authorities, industry and trade partners and our local sales, marketing and operations teams.”
Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: “The United service has been a trans-Atlantic asset that delivers incredible value for Northern Ireland. Not only is it pivotal for business, but also for in-bound tourism. The elimination of Air Passenger Duty (APD) secured the service, and now the challenge is to encourage even greater up-take from our business community. We have to be ready for the game-changing impact that devolved Corporation Tax will involve, and that means an even greater role for United as we prepare for the next decade – a decade of growth, inward-investment, jobs and prosperity. The International Airport is looking forward to playing its part in what will be a most exciting journey.”
Speaking at Belfast International Airport, the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, said: “The US remains our number one source of foreign direct investment and direct connectivity with the US is essential for existing and potential investment, tourism and economic development. I thank and congratulate United Airlines for providing that connectivity and reaching this important milestone.
“Today we have one of the largest aerospace sectors in Europe generating $1.6 billion every year for the local economy. Without the international links provided by United Airlines that level of growth in our local economy would not have been possible.
“The decision by United Airlines to invest here in 2005 shows our cost-competitive, ‘pro business’ environment, pipeline of talented graduates and excellent infrastructure combined are a compelling proposition to international investors.”
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell commented: “Direct, convenient and competitive air access is critical to the continued development of our economy. Enhancing air connectivity and driving visitors for tourism are both key priorities for me. In 2017 Belfast will host Routes Europe, giving us the opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland globally to airlines, business and inward investors. I am sure this will enable them to see the benefits, which United Airlines saw back in 2005, of operating from here.”
U.S. Consul General Gregory Burton said: “On May 27, 1796, the U.S. Consulate was established in Belfast to help facilitate the movement of people, goods, and commerce across the Atlantic. Exactly 209 years later to the day, a scheduled air service commenced along the same transatlantic route. I want to congratulate United Airlines and Belfast International Airport on this significant anniversary of the Belfast-Newark service. As we celebrate our own anniversary today, we can reflect on how our economic, cultural, and social ties have been augmented over the last decade because of a direct, non-stop air route. We wish the service every success for the future.”
Alastair Hamilton, Chief Executive Invest Northern Ireland, said: “Invest NI would like to congratulate United on the success of this Belfast-Newark route over the last 10 years. Direct airline connectivity is key to doing business, both for local companies who actively export their products and services and for our inward investors to meet with colleagues, clients and suppliers, and this long-standing United Airlines route has helped connect Northern Ireland with the United States and grow our economy.”
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “The value of a direct flight between the United States and Northern Ireland cannot be overstated; United has been bringing American visitors directly to Belfast and Northern Ireland for 10 years, helping to deliver many millions of pounds in tourism revenue to the local economy and helping to sustain valuable employment. 2014 was a very good year for tourism from North America and I am pleased to report that major attractions like Titanic Belfast are reporting good increases already for 2015. The convenience of travelling direct with United to the ‘home’ of Game of Thrones is no doubt also boosting film tourism to Northern Ireland from the all-important US market. As an island, convenient, direct, non-stop flights are absolutely critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism. Tourism Ireland is committed to working with United and Belfast International Airport to continue to drive demand for this service for the next 10 years.”