16/10/2009

Airline Makes 'Easymove' To City

Two so-called no frills airlines are to go head-to-head next year with news that Easyjet is to move one of its busiest routes from Belfast International Airport to the George Best Belfast City Airport.

The orange and white brightly-liveried planes will operate a twice-daily service to London Luton from 7the January next year.

A statement from Easyjet said if the move was successful they would consider "additional routes over time" from the city site.

However, it went on to say that the bulk of the company's operations would remain at Belfast International Airport.

"We want to see if our passengers flying on selected shorter routes would prefer to fly via Belfast City Airport," said Paul Simmons, Regional General Manager for Easyjet, told the BBC today.

"The only way to actually do this properly is to run a route from there.

"We will take our time in assessing the passenger feedback and then take a view on how best to configure our operations between the two airports in the longer term".

George Best Belfast City Airport Chief Executive Brian Ambrose said he was delighted Easyjet had selected Luton as its first route for the airport.

He said: "I am certain that the continuing private investment by our owners in the airport's infrastructure, aimed at enhancing the customer experience, will appeal to Easyjet passengers.

"The arrival of another premier airline to Belfast City will be welcome news for our growing customer base."

Ryanair is already operating a London service from the east Belfast facility - via Stansted - and will be in direct competition with easyjet on the lucrative London-Belfast route.

There is continued controversy over plans to extend the runway at the airport, a move that is being bitterly opposed by local residsents who have called for a full public inquiry.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said that he is "fairly satisfied" the Northern Ireland Planning Service will approve the proposal for a longer runway at the facility.

Speaking on a BBC Spotlight programme earlier this year, the budget airline's Chief Executive related that he believes the runway will be extended, despite growing opposition to the move.

Responding to the announcement, Belfast City Airport Watch spokesperson, Fiona McKinley, said: "We're very concerned that this move by easyJet is a further step towards the day when Belfast will have a huge international airport right on its doorstep, creating an intolerable problem for the tens of thousands of local residents who already suffer from aircraft noise.

"easyJet is a highly competitive, low-cost carrier which, like Ryanair, relies on attracting large volumes of passengers.

"This move only adds to the case for the Minister to reject outright City Airport's runway extension proposals or, at the very least, to hold a public inquiry.

"We would also question whether, if easyJet does go ahead with further services, the airport can adhere to the 'seats for sale' limit on passenger numbers stipulated by its Planning Agreement with the Department of the Environment."

See: Ryanair Boss 'Rejects' Belfast City Runway Inquiry

(BMcC/GK)

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