Business

Belfast International Airport owners reveal ambitious expansion plan

Belfast International Airport chief Graham Keddie (left) welcomes Vinci Concessions chief executive Nicolas Notebaert to Aldergrove yesterday as the airport's new branding was unveiled
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE head of Belfast International Airport's French majority owners Vinci insists that "money is no object" in growing the Aldergrove hub and attracting new routes.

Nicolas Notebaert, chief executive of Vinci Concessions and president of Vinci Airports hinted at the potential of a new terminal building in the coming years.

He also suggested that Vinci would throw its weight behind ambitions to attract additional carriers including Qatar and America Airlines to Belfast.

And he pledged to "bring whatever influence possible" to the airport's ongoing campaign to remove air passenger duty, a tax which can add nearly £30 on domestic fares and which is widely regarded as an inhibitor to growth.

M Notebaert was speaking to the Irish News 18 months after the French infrastructure giant purchased Belfast International Airport as part of global expansion plans.

In April last year Vinci acquired the portfolio held by Airports Worldwide. This includes two freehold properties - Belfast International Airport and Stockholm-Skavsta Airport; and two concessions - Orlando-Sanford International Airport, and Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport in Costa Rica.

It also included four full management contracts covering Hollywood Burbank Airport, Ontario International Airport, Macon Downtown Airport and Middle Georgia Regional Airport; and three partial management contracts covering US airports: Atlantic City International Airport, Raleigh Durham International Airport, and a share of the international terminal at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

“Getting Belfast was especially significant for us,” M Notebaert said.

“It was our first step into the UK market, which underlined our investment confidence in managing the asset despite Brexit creating so much uncertainty in the European air travel market.

“Since then we've completed the acquisition of a controlling 50.01 per cent stake in Gatwick, adding it and Belfast to our growing global portfolio of 46 airports in 20 countries across Asia, Europe and the Americas, handling around 250 passengers a year.”

Airport ownership across Europe has undergone sea change in the last decade, with more than half now having private shareholders, with Vinci Airports widely acknowledge as being amont the most dynamic players in the market,

“Our growth strategy has been very successful so far, allowing us to create real momentum, and the branding strength of our parent company Vinci, and the fact that it is a household name, allows us to be an investor, contracting authority, and operator, all rolled into one.”

He said: “We have demonstrated that our integrated global model and long-term approach works, and that we are a solid, trusted and effective partner for airports like Belfast.

“We realise the need to invest in infrastructure, and believe airports should provide a true experiential journey that revives the exciting spirit of air travel.

“For us it's not about the money. Vinci has substantial financing capacity, and where we can create value we will certainly look at investment in Belfast going forward because we see airports as hugely significant.”

“Airports not only facilitate the fast movement of people and goods, fostering trade and commerce, but also support job creation and serve as a catalyst for local investment.

“And in Northern Ireland we see the tourism potential as world class," he added.

Since the Vinci take-over the airport has invested more than £3 million in various services, including alleviating security pinch points in the wake of complaints in early summer, and M Notebaert's visit coincided with the unveiling of new branding, replacing its old logo with one incorporating the new owners' name.

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