A surge of almost 20% in passenger numbers in January at Belfast International Airport has been described as ‘the ideal start to a most promising year’ by the airport’s Managing Director, Graham Keddie.
The impressive growth rate will be exceeded from the end of March with the arrival of Ryanair which will operate a four-times daily service to Gatwick. The airline expects to carry one million passengers on a total of six routes in its first full year of operation at its new Northern Ireland base.
Last year, the airport recorded close to 4.4 million passengers, and 2016 will see it closing in on the 5 million mark.
Mr Keddie said: “Our January figures are a tribute to our existing airlines which have added hundreds of thousands of seats. easyJet, Jet 2, United, Wizz are all enjoying increases in passenger traffic.
“Even without Ryanair on the apron, the airport is set for a year of unprecedented growth.
“Some of our airlines are keen to expand the route network to mainland Europe and are only waiting on Tourism Ireland, Invest NI and the Government to come up with appropriate levels of marketing support.
“We’ve also got the Air Route Development Fund which has been years in the making and which may appear by the end of March. We will obviously welcome such a Fund and seek our fair share of it.
“For the fund to be effective, it must be earmarked for new routes that will deliver in-bound tourists from key markets such as Germany and Scandinavia.
“Belfast International, and the businesses on the site, are creating hundreds of new jobs, and pumping millions of Pounds in wages into the Northern Ireland economy. We’re an enterprise hub which could deliver thousands more jobs. All it needs is an understanding by Government Ministers that they’re sitting on a ‘goldmine’”.