By Deborah Harris, PR Manager
There’s nothing static or staid about airport and airline business. Change is hardwired into the sector’s DNA. If it isn’t making waves, then there’s something not quite right.
Routes Europe was action-packed and, at times, frenzied. Our stand attracted a lot of interest, and not because we were promoting some exquisite, internationally renowned distillery labels. No, the hundreds of people from airlines and airports who stopped by for a chat wanted to know more about our successes, and where we thought we would be in a year’s time.
And, of course, one year from now, Routes Europe is in Belfast, and as the main ‘gateway’ to Northern Ireland, it was important to set out our stall. Airport growth and airline expansion featured in many of the conversations we had.
Graham, Uel, Brian and Deirdre, all attired in their hi-viz t-shirts, weighed in with the story that is Belfast International Airport. In passenger terms, we’re currently Number Eleven in the country…..and growing. EasyJet, Jet2 Wizz and United have added seat capacity and Ryanair has opened a new base with us that promises rapid growth.
Indeed, as we were promoting the airport and Northern Ireland, we got confirmation from Ryanair’s Dublin HQ that it intended adding three new Polish routes to its Belfast network. That’s three based aircraft….10 new routes….sixty flights a week.
Graham, our Managing Director, in a reaction to the news, said: "This is more fantastic news from Ryanair. It means that this winter should be one of our busiest ever. Gdansk, Warsaw and Wroclaw follow Krakow and deliver a very comprehensive network to a new and important Polish market.
“We currently stand as the eleventh largest airport in the UK, but I expect that with continuing airline expansion and growth in passenger numbers, we will break into the 'Top Ten' before too long. The airport is delivering real economic benefit for Northern Ireland and that means new employment and business opportunities.
“These new Polish routes are delivered without any government support and show only a fraction of what could be achieved if APD were removed. Despite this ‘headwind’, we’re making great progress and have reason to believe we can maintain the momentum.”
It was apt that we were in Poland when the call came through from Ryanair. Before we packed up, we had just enough left in the bottle to raise a glass to Ryanair and to say to the aviation world that Belfast International was enjoying an upward trajectory with ambition to reach targets that only a few years ago we thought were unachievable.
The journey will be nothing if not fast-moving and exciting!