Disappointment over loss of direct flights between Northern Ireland and Poland
POLAND’S honorary consul in Northern Ireland has expressed his disappointment after Ryanair signalled it will pull the plug on all its operations in the north over the winter months.
The Irish budget carrier will cease six services at Belfast International Airport at the end of October, including three routes to Krakow, Gdansk and Warsaw Modlin.
It remains unclear what services, if any will return in the spring.
As it stands, there are no direct flights scheduled between Northern Ireland and Poland by any airline this winter.
Jerome Mullen, who has been Poland’s honorary consul to the north since 2008, said the connectivity been Northern Ireland and Poland had been in steady decline in recent years
He said Poles are increasingly using Dublin to travel back and forth, with Brexit a crucial factor.
“Most of the flights bringing Poles in and out of Ireland are coming through Dublin,” he said.
The Newry man said the new post-Brexit requirement for ‘settled status’ had greatly limited the numbers moving from the EU to Northern Ireland.
In June it was reported that around 25,000 people from Poland had applied to remain in Northern Ireland under the post-Brexit settled status scheme.
The number of Poles in the north had been put as high as 37,000 just two years ago.
According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), some 16,799 people flew between Poland and Belfast International Airport during June 2019.
June 2021 saw just 1,809 make the journey.
“There’s not many new people coming because of the visa requirement,” said Mr Mullen.
“It’s a sign of the time we’re living in I’m afraid. Things have changed.”
Ryanair last night laid the blame squarely at the UK Government and Stormont over its decision to pull its remaining services in Northern Ireland over the winter.
The move will also see it end eight summer seasonal routes at Belfast City Airport earlier than originally envisaged.
The Irish carrier had already pulled all flights between the north and Britain back in January over a fall-out with the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority.
In a statement, Ryanair cited its long-running issue over air passenger duty (APD) for pulling its winter operation.
But the airline also blamed “the lack of Covid recovery incentives from both Belfast airports”.
Stormont has provided significant financial support directly to the north’s three main airports, but the support for airlines has been largely limited to a smaller domestic incentive, the Northern Ireland Domestic Aviation Kickstart Scheme (NIDAKS).
However, Ryanair’s statement does not rule out a return to Northern Ireland in the spring.
“These aircraft will be reallocated to lower cost airports elsewhere in the UK and Europe for the Winter schedule which starts in November.”