Ryanair to return to Belfast City Airport with eight new summer routes
MORE than a decade after removing its fleet in a hissy fit over the length of its runway, budget carrier Ryanair is to resume flying from George Best Belfast City Airport this summer with eight new routes to mainly European sun and city-break destinations including Mallorca, Milan and Ibiza.
And although the airline insists it will run the new schedule in tandem with its offering from Belfast International, it raises doubts on the future viability of services from Aldergrove, most of which have been suspended from last year with no indications of when bookings will commence.
Ryanair says it will be offering daily routes from the City Airport to Malaga, Mallorca, Faro and Alicante from June to October.
It will fly five times a week to Barcelona and twice-weekly to Milan Bergamo, Valencia and the popular party island of Ibiza.
Ryanair previously flew to a number of mainly domestic routes from the City Airport between 2007 and 2010, but withdrew after becoming frustrated over runway extension delays.
The carrier's marketing director Dara Brady told the Irish News: “We believe it makes sense to come back to the City.
“We're constantly speaking to airports, always discussing options and destinations, and always open to change.
“This move is good for us, good for the airport and good for customers, and will stimulate growth for the region," he added.
Mr Brady insisted there is "no longer an issue" over the length of the City Airport runway, adding: "For some time we expect load factors to be lower anyway, and we're happy with the facilities."
Back in 2006 the City Airport applied to build a runway extension which would increase its length by 470 metres to 2,299 metres for take-off and 2,059 metres for landing. The application was as referred to public inquiry and was never built.
He said Ryanair would continue to operate from Belfast International, where all its routes are currently suspended.
It is due to resume six routes in the summer to Polish and Spanish destinations, but other key routes including London Stansted have been axed.
And Ryanair has yet to offer a return date for flights from City of Derry Airport to Edinburgh and Liverpool.
But Mr Brady confirmed: “Derry is still on our radar, but overall we carried less than 500,000 passengers on our entire route network last month compared to 10 million the previous February, so we're waiting to see what happens over the next quarter."
He says the successful roll-out of the vaccination programme is giving consumers in the north confidence that summer travel will be possible, and Ryanair has launched a seat sale on the new routes, with fares from £14.99 able to be booked by midnight on Saturday.
Belfast City Airport chief executive Brian Ambrose, who retired next month, said: “This is excellent news for those in Northern Ireland considering a getaway this summer. The choice of routes offered by Ryanair will facilitate both city breaks and relaxing beach holidays for our passengers.
“Travel has been significantly restricted over the last 12 months, but we expect there will be considerable demand for these new routes, and we look forward to welcoming Ryanair customers through the terminal.”