THE new owners of Flybe have thrown down the gauntlet to its regional airline rivals by announcing 12 new routes from Belfast City Airport.
The carrier, which has been resurrected by Thyme Opco, will return to Belfast next month, two years on from its collapse into administration.
Flights to Glasgow and Birmingham will start from April 13, with Heathrow and Leeds/Bradford coming online on April 28.
Flybe will compete directly with KLM for flights to Amsterdam from May 28, while Edinburgh, Manchester, East Midlands, Southampton, Newcastle, Inverness and Aberdeen will launch in the summer.
Prior to its fall, Flybe had been Belfast City Airport’s anchor airline, responsible for around 80 per cent of flights.
While its new owners have signalled their intent of being a key player at the airport once again, Flybe will face much steeper competition in 2022.
It will go head-to-head with the Aer Lingus regional operator Emerald Airlines on five routes.
Four of those routes are already being covered in the interim by Aer Lingus and British Airways following the collapse of Stobart Air last June.
Emerald will take to the skies around Belfast on Thursday when its takes over the Birmingham service for Aer Lingus Regional.
It will take over the Manchester, Edinburgh and Leeds/Bradford routes from Sunday (March 27), with a Glasgow and Exeter service launching on May 8.
The airline’s founder, Conor McCarthy has already stated his intention to expand the portfolio at Belfast City.
Meanwhile, Flybe will also compete directly with Loganair for the Inverness and Aberdeen services, with Eastern Airways already covering the Southampton route.