By Graham Keddie, Managing Director, Belfast International Airport
Brexit or no Brexit, every morning, hundreds of Northern Ireland business people turn up at the International to board flights to the capital.
easyJet and Ryanair have been seeing strong growth on their London routes with Gatwick easily the Number One airport in London. The airlines are experiencing load factors above 90%. One outbound flight I was on this week had one empty seat and the inbound one had none!
Naturally, that level of demand is what airlines relish, and so do we.
Interestingly, a good number of the 13,500 passengers who fly in and out from the International every day are business people heading to London for a day’s work. More and more, cost-conscious SMEs are opting for lower fares offering better value instead of the more unrealistically priced options.
Company accountants are searching out the best deals for their people. There are significant business opportunities in the London area, and they’re keen to capture a slice of what’s available. But they have to get there first of all, and a ticket on Ryanair or easyJet at a fraction of what others charge is a no-brainer.
Demand for flights to London has never been higher. Even with twenty outbound flights each weekday to Gatwick, London Luton and Stansted, there’s scope for additional capacity.
Over the next number of months, our airlines will ratchet up activity to ensure that vital, competitively-priced air links are enhanced.
Yes, the airlines and the airport are benefiting, but so, too, are the SMEs from Northern Ireland who can get to where they need to be at affordable rates.
We will see considerable increases in passenger numbers over the next twelve months with new routes coming on stream but, as I saw for myself this week, a slice of that growth will be centred on the London market with our airlines meeting demand from the business community who seek real value or real bang for their pound.