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Passenger numbers continue to recover at NI airports as TUI announce direct flights to Orlando

Passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport recovered to 75 per cent pre-pandemic levels during March 2022. Picture By Hugh Russell.
Passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport recovered to 75 per cent pre-pandemic levels during March 2022. Picture By Hugh Russell. Passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport recovered to 75 per cent pre-pandemic levels during March 2022. Picture By Hugh Russell.

BELFAST International Airport saw passenger numbers recover to 75 per cent of pre-Covid levels in March, official data has shown.

The airport recorded a 775 per cent jump on its March 2021 numbers, the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said.

Some 365,707 passengers passed through the Aldergrove terminal in March 2022, compared to just 41,776 from the same month last year.

While the year-on-year increase is substantial, the airport remained 25 per cent down on pre-pandemic activity from March 2019, when almost half a million passengers passed through its terminal.

The CAA data showed Belfast City Airport recovered to 54 per cent of pre-pandemic activity during March with 90,000 fewer passengers compared to March 2019.

However, the 104,971 recorded in March 2022, was 512 per cent up on the 17,166 from March 2021.

The airport is also set to see a sharp uptake in numbers with the resumption of the Aer Lingus Regional operation and the return of Flybe.

City of Derry Airport saw 504 per cent increase in its March 2022 numbers from last year, but the 11,060 passengers it recorded was still 34 per cent down on its pre-pandemic activity.

The recovery in passenger numbers at Belfast International Airport comes as tour operator TUI announced it will operate a handful of direct flights to Florida next year.

The holiday airline will deploy its own Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft to operate four non-stop flights to Melbourne Orlando International Airport in June and June 2023.

It’s expected to go head-to-head with Virgin Atlantic, which currently operates a seasonal Florida service from the airport.

Craig Morgan, Head of Ireland for TUI, said: . The appetite for travel is stronger than ever and customers who may not have travelled abroad at all, or as much as they would’ve liked over the last two years, are now planning well ahead into next year and choosing holidays that provide lifelong family memories and satisfy bucket list dreams.”

Uel Hoey from Belfast International Airport said the new service will boost connectivity from the airport.

“This enables us to offer more choice and convenience for passengers with non-stop flights from their local airport,” he said.

“We know that people are excited to travel again, and we are delighted to be the first part of their holiday experience before they reach Florida.”