Passenger numbers down 77 per cent at Belfast City Airport in March after Flybe collapse

A quiet check-in area at Belfast City Airport after the Flybe collapsed into administration at the start of March. Picture Mal McCann.
Ryan McAleer

THE collapse of Flybe and the impact of coronavirus saw the number of passengers at Belfast City Airport drop by 77 per cent in March.

The regional airline had operated around 80 per cent of scheduled routes from the airport until it entered administration at the start of March.

According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Belfast City Airport flew 45,212 passengers in March 2020, some 149,360 fewer than the same month in 2019.

The CAA figures chart the start of Covid-19's impact on the industry, with airlines gradually cutting services throughout the month before the widespread grounding of flights at the end of March.

It contributed to a 41 per cent drop in passengers at City of Derry Airport from 16,719 to 9,905.

Belfast International Airport recorded a 50 per cent decline, with 241,743 passengers flying, compared with 487,888 during the same month in 2019.

Numbers were already down 12 per cent at Aldergrove in February, largely due to Ryanair cutting back on services at the end of 2019.

The decision by Jet2 and Easyjet to ground operations toward the end of March accounted for most of the lost passengers.

Meanwhile, Ryanair confirmed on Monday that the entire airline flew just 40,000 passengers in April, as the coronavirus crisis brought air travel to a standstill.

The Dublin-based carrier warned that operations will continue to be affected throughout May and June.

Ryanair, which last week announced it is axing 3,000 jobs, saw the number of passengers flown collapse 99.6 per cent from 13.5 million a year ago.

The group ran 600 scheduled flights in April - including rescue and medical flights on behalf of various EU governments - compared with the 75,501 it had been expected to operate before the Covid-19 outbreak.

"Due to multiple EU government flight bans and restrictions, Ryanair expects to carry minimal traffic during the months of May and June as well," it added.

The group joined rivals in announcing thousands of job losses last week as it faces an unprecedented aviation crisis and warned that flights will remain grounded until "at least July".

Ryanair is cutting up to 3,000 jobs across pilots and cabin crew in a restructuring programme which could also involve unpaid leave and salaries being slashed by up to 20 per cent, as well as the closure of a number of aircraft bases across Europe.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary, whose has also agreed to halve his pay, does not believe passenger demand will recover until summer 2022 at the earliest.

Airlines around the world are facing a struggle to survive due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week it was reported that up to 900 Aer Lingus and 12,000 British Airways workers are to lose their jobs.

Sir Richard Branson has also warned that Virgin Atlantic will collapse unless it receives Government support.

But in a separate update, budget European airline Wizz Air confirmed that it reopened its bases in London Luton and Vienna on May 1, with flights to selected destinations in a sign of easing conditions in some countries.

It also announced new routes to Abu Dhabi from Budapest and Bucharest starting in June, as well as a new base in Ukraine from July 1 as it seeks to expand despite the aviation crisis.

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