Regional air sector 'will recover quickly' says departing airport boss

Brian Ambrose
Gary McDonald Business Editor

DEPARTING chief executive Brian Ambrose says he believes levels of business at Belfast City Airport will return to 2019 levels in less than two years as the aviation sector begins to recover after Covid.

Mr Ambrose (61) will retire on June 30 after working for 45 years in the harbour estate, first with Shorts-Bombardier and then at the airport, where he has been CEO since 2004.

In an interview with the Irish News, he paints a generally positive picture of a return to normality for regional air travel - and reasonably quickly.

"Inbound tourism, especially from GB, will be the first to come back, helped by our magnificent terminal, which has been transformed in recent years and which is already looking to pioneer touchless technology.

"There's also a huge pent-up demand for visiting friends and relatives, which will also come back at pace.

"And then there's business traffic, which is a core element of our business. We're an island, so business people have no real option but to pop on a plane.

"Yes, there'll be changes after Covid, and companies may reassess travel arrangements, and for some meetings might alternate between virtual and in-person.

"But people do business with people, and that face-to-face engagement is crucial.

"So there'll be changes. But when you combine it all together, I'm very confident we'll recover and exceed previous levels of business at a facility which is now geared to deal with four million passengers a year."

Following the collapse last year of its main customer Flybe, which reduced the airport to a single flight a day, Mr Ambrose says Belfast City "is now on stable ground" with a core network of 24 routes to UK and European destinations, served by a number of partner airlines including BA, Aer Lingus, Ryanair and KLM.

Global recruitment firm Korn Ferry is expected to make an announcement on Mr Ambrose's successor at the end of this month.

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