11/11/2009

Airport's Extra Passenger Bid Slammed

Residents have reacted angrily to reports that George Best Belfast City Airport is trying to get a cap on its passenger numbers lifted.

A spokeswoman said this week that the airport's management has written to the Stormont Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, to request that the current limit of two million 'seats for sale' be removed.

This limit forms part of a new Planning Agreement between the airport and the Department of the Environment which came into force late last year.

It limits the number of outgoing passengers at the airport and helps restrict the number of large, noisier jet aircraft using the airport.

Fiona McKinley, Spokesperson for residents' group, Belfast City Airport Watch, said local people are very angry at the fresh move: "It's now clear that the airport is going all out to create a large, noisy international airport right on the doorstep of tens of thousands of people.

"The lifting of the seats for sale restriction, if combined with the airport's planned runway extension, would lead to the use of much heavier, noisier aircraft - making life quite intolerable for local residents.

"We call on the Minister to reject both this selfish demand and the airport's application for the runway extension," she said.

Residents are worried about expansion, especially so after an earlier incident of damage being caused.

In September, officials at the urban airport admitted that it could not rule out the possibility that turbulence from a passing plane might have caused around 30 roof tiles to be dislodged from a nearby private house.
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SDLP South Belfast MP Dr Alasdair McDonnell said at the time that the incident reinforced the need for a public inquiry to be carried out into the expansion of the runway at the airport.

Mr McDonnell said: "The damage caused by this low-flying plane could have had potentially fatal consequences, particularly on a sunny Sunday afternoon as many residents, including young children, were outside enjoying the good weather."

Local MLA and Ulster Unionist party Leader Sir Reg Empey also challenged the wisdom of expansion at the busy east Belfast facility.

Expansion is being sought as business remains strong at George Best Belfast City Airport, which has bucked the trend by posting a rise in passenger numbers in August.

According to the latest figures published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Belfast City Airport recorded the largest percentage increase among airports carrying one million passengers or more a year.

It carried 240,834 passengers during August, up 8.3% compared with the same month a year ago.

That compared with a 15.3% decrease in passenger numbers at Belfast International and a 15.5% dip reported by City of Derry Airport for the same period.

The CAA figures showed that for the year to August, the City Airport carried 2.5 million passengers, unchanged on the level of passenger traffic for the same period a year earlier. Over the same time, Belfast International's numbers were down 11.1% to 4.7 million.

The statistics showed that City Airport's passenger numbers had been achieved despite a slight drop in flights from August 2008 and a 9.1% decline in flights for the year.

See: City Airport Flies Into Turbulence

(BMcC/KMcA)

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