EasyJet adds new Turkey route - but airports still struggling for passenger numbers

The stunning Dalaman coast in Turkey, to where easyJet will fly from March 31 next
The stunning Dalaman coast in Turkey, to where easyJet will fly from March 31 next The stunning Dalaman coast in Turkey, to where easyJet will fly from March 31 next

EASYJET has added Dalaman to its flights schedule for next year, making it the 37th direct route it'll operate from Belfast International Airport.

Flights to the Turkish resort, dubbed the ‘Turquoise Coast’ because of its stunning seas and coastal scenery, will operate on Tuesdays and Saturdays from March 31 2020, and seats have gone on sale from £24.99.

It will put easyJet in direct competition with, which has been operating a summer service to Dalaman since 2018.

EasyJet is projecting that the new service will carry 19,000 customers in its first season.

The carrier's UK country manager Ali Gayward said: “As the largest airline at Belfast International and in Northern Ireland, we’re focused on strengthening our network and providing customers with excellent services by offering great value fares, a convenient schedule and more choice when they travel.”

The airport's business development director Uel Hoey added: “We're pleased to see further network development from easyJet on the traditionally popular Dalaman route and look forward to working closely with them to extend their coverage across the eastern and western Mediterranean in support of their recently unveiled easyJet Holidays division.”

The easyJet announcement comes after rival Jet2 said it was introducing a weekly Wednesday flight to Corfu from next July.

But the international airport has still some way to go to fill the void created by Ryanair's major scaling back of both winter and summer routes, and the fall-out of the Thomas Cook collapse.

Statistics for September reveal a 4 per cent decline in domestic passenger numbers and a 3 per cent drop in international passengers at Belfast International, which it says is "due expressly to capacity revisions by Ryanair".

But in the rolling 12 months to September, Aldergrove handled 6,417,000 passengers, a 5.3 per cent increase on the relevant comparative total from a year earlier.

Figures at Belfast City Airport over the same rolling 12 months, at 2,487,000 passengers, represented a 1.7 per cent decrease on the comparable period.

The entire aviation industry has been experiencing a period of volatility and uncertainty with numerous macro-economic issues impinging on the sector, including Boeing MAX aircraft grounding, Brexit out-turn uncertainties and increasing fuel costs.

Indeed just yesterday Dublin Airport confirmed that its November throughput was down 1 per cent on 2018 - the first monthly drop in passenger numbers since March 2014.