BELFAST City Airport saw passenger numbers rise by 50 per cent last year, but still recorded an operating loss of £4.38 million in 2021.
In a year still very much impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, the airport posted a turnover of £9.5m, 50 per cent up on 2020.
It wasn’t enough to lift Belfast City Airport Limited out of the red, with operating losses coming in at £4.4m for the 12 months ending December 31 2021.
It left the airport with losses of £10.4m across 2020 and 2021.
Pre-Covid, the airport typically recorded a turnover of £22m, with annual operating profits of around £3m.
The 812,000 passengers who used the east Belfast terminal in 2021 was a marked improvement on the 543,000 from 2020.
But numbers remained well down on 2019, when 2.5 million people passed through the airport.
Since 2016, Belfast City Airport has owned by a fund managed by 3i Investments plc.
It suffered a double blow in 2020, when anchor airline Flybe collapsed just weeks before the north went into the first lockdown.
The airport has since recovered most of the former Flybe routes, with Emerald Airlines and a new version of Flybe, resurrected by Thyme Opco, stepping up activity.
Matthew Hall, who took over the top post at the airport during the reporting year, said the results firmly reflected the impact of what he called “some of the toughest and longest lasting restrictions in response to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
“The pandemic was extremely challenging and we are grateful for the support received at the time from the Finance Minister, his department and the wider Executive in recognising the strategic importance of the airport within the local economy.”
The chief executive said 2022 has marked “a really significant turning point” for the airport.
“We’re pleased to have experienced continuous growth as leisure and increasingly business travellers make their return to the skies,” he said.
“Passenger numbers are now around 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels which is a much improved position and evident we are well on the way to recovery.
“While we were thrilled to welcome back passengers, 2022 has also seen the return of Flybe under new ownership and Aer Lingus Regional, both broadening and strengthening our portfolio of airline partners.
“Another positive development is the expansion of EasyJet operations from Belfast City Airport with flights to four destinations - London Gatwick, Liverpool, Bristol and Gatwick - now on sale.
“Significantly, our robust network provides more domestic connections than any other Northern Ireland airport and we continue to be a popular choice for leisure travellers on routes to European destinations.”