Ryanair: APD cut and 'sensible new deal' entices Irish carrier back to Belfast International

Ryanair's commercial director Jason McGuinness speaking in Belfast on Thursday. Pictures by Hugh Russell.
Ryanair's commercial director Jason McGuinness speaking in Belfast on Thursday. Pictures by Hugh Russell. Ryanair's commercial director Jason McGuinness speaking in Belfast on Thursday. Pictures by Hugh Russell.

RYANAIR said a combination of the planned cut to air passenger duty (APD) and a new deal with Belfast International Airport’s owners is behind its decision to return to the terminal next year.

The Irish carrier said it will operate 115 weekly flights across 12 routes from April 2023.

Two aircraft will be based at the airport, with at least 60 “highly paid aviation jobs” created.

Ryanair claimed it will represent an investment of around $200 million (£167m), benefiting a further 650 jobs indirectly.

The announcement came just eight months after the airline pulled up the wheels at Aldergrove at the end of October 2021, blaming the UK Government and Stormont over air passenger duty (APD) rates and a lack of Covid recovery incentives

Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced plans to cut APD on domestic flights from £13 to £6.50 in the Autumn Budget.

But it won’t come into effect until April 2023 and won’t change rates for international flights, something Ryanair’s commercial director Jason McGuinness has branded “utterly bizarre”.

Speaking at the Grand Central Hotel in Belfast on Thursday, he called on the UK Government to immediately scrap aviation taxes for all flights.

“Without this tax, Ryanair would place up to four or five aircraft in Belfast and certainly double the number of passengers and double the number of routes.

“When you compare it to Dublin, Cork and Shannon, it really does put Belfast at a significant disadvantage and it is hampering Northern Ireland’s tourism reaching its full potential.

“The reduction should have happened from this year to allow Northern Ireland’s tourism to recover,” he added.

“And second of all, it should have been abolished in its entirety if the UK Government is actually serious about levelling up.”

The commercial director also denied Ryanair had ‘strong-armed’ the airport into a better deal.

“We have reached a very sensible agreement and it is a very competitive market for Ryanair capacity at the moment,” said Mr McGuinness.

“We are only airline growing. While every other airline across Europe was cancelling aircraft orders and reducing their fleets, we did the exact opposite

“We increased our aircraft order and we are going to grow by 50 per cent in the next four years.

“We are going to bring one million passengers to Belfast International Airport with all the associated benefits of that.”

Asked about the nature of its new deal with Ryanair, Belfast International Airport’s chief financial Officer Dan Owens said: “Like all commercial arrangements and business discussions, there is give and take on both sides, and we are very pleased with the long-term deal we have achieved with Ryanair.

He added: “I think it’s fair to say the last couple of years have been very challenging. We made significant losses by remaining open and serving the cargo operation.

“But as we build back, I think the passenger volumes are returning and it is very encouraging to see the demand that is there to travel.”

Ryanair's new routes from Belfast International include Alicante, Faro, Barcelona-Girona, Malaga, Manchester, Milan-Bergamo, Stansted, Paris Beauvais, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gdansk and Krakow.