It's been a busy few weeks for Belfast's airports. Following in the footsteps of Ryanair's announcement of its first flights from Belfast City Airport (see online news July 31), both Aer Lingus and Easyjet are to launch new services from Belfast International.
For Aer Lingus it's the confirmation everyone has been expecting – the carrier will establish a new UK hub in Belfast, initially serving Amsterdam (14-times weekly), Barcelona (five times per week), and Geneva (twice-weekly) from December 10. A 21-times weekly route to London Heathrow will follow from January 14, 2008, with Aer Lingus taking on incumbent Bmi on the popular route, and from February 25 the carrier will also fly from Belfast to Budapest, Faro (both three-times weekly) and Malaga (four times a week).
The airline will transfer slots freed up by the scrapping of its current Heathrow – Shannon route to cover the new flights from Belfast to London, and says it will base three A320 aircraft at Belfast, primarily to serve the flights to Heathrow and Schiphol. Aer Lingus says that in the current climate "the Belfast-Heathrow services present an accelerated growth opportunity, using its available fleet and slot resources". The carrier added that flight times will be scheduled to allow customers to connect with long-haul departures in both Amsterdam and London, in conjunction with codeshare partners KLM and BA.
Meanwhile Easyjet is to expand its operations from Belfast International, with new routes to Barcelona, Gdansk, Prague and Venice.
The airline plans to base an additional aircraft at Belfast to cover the new routes, along with increased frequencies on its Krakow and Paris services from Belfast, which now fly five and eight times a week respectively. Said David Osbourne, Easyjet UK general manager:
"The addition of the sixth based aircraft will provide the capacity for these four new routes to Barcelona, Gdansk, Prague and Venice, increasing the number of routes served by easyJet in Belfast to 24, cementing Easyjet's commitment to the region."
The Belfast-Gdansk service starts on 30 October 30 with two flights weekly, while the services to Prague and Vienna start on November 1, flying four and two times a week respectively. The Belfast – Barcelona route will fly three times a week, starting from November 3. All flights start from £19.99 one way.
Report by Mark Caswell and Karen Eeuwens