AER Lingus is to move to George Best Belfast City Airport in the autumn after five years at Belfast International.
Following a tender process involving both airports the decision has been taken to base two aircraft at the city airport during the winter and three during the summer.
A new-look winter schedule for 2012 targets two key routes for business, leisure and transfer traffic, in and out of London Heathrow and London Gatwick. There will be three flights daily to each airport in each direction.
The summer schedule, which begins from the end of March 2013, will operate daily flights to two sun destinations, Malaga and Faro in addition to the three daily rotations each to London Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
“Northern Ireland’s vital London connections are secure with Aer Lingus,” said Christoph Mueller, the airline’s chief executive, who announced the decision to move airports.
“The two aircraft which we normally use in the winter for a mixture of sun destinations and Heathrow will be used for Heathrow and Gatwick with a third aircraft serving two European routes in the new-look summer schedule.”
He added; “This is a commercial decision delivering value for our customers and the company. George Best Belfast City Airport delivers a compelling location and a strong history of business flying. We believe the move will appeal to the 600,000 plus passengers annually who fly with us and especially the business traveller who now has a choice of two London airports with Aer Lingus.
“Indeed business travellers based in the Belfast City Centre will now be able to substantially reduce transit times from office to aircraft. Customers who are members of our Gold Circle frequent flyer programme will also be able to use the business lounge facilities at George Best Belfast City Airport. We believe our dual offer of Heathrow and Gatwick supports the local marketplace during these challenging economic times.”
Mr Mueller said the 100 jobs created in the £100 million investment made by Aer Lingus in Northern Ireland five years ago remained secure.
“We remain committed to the Northern Ireland marketplace,” he said. “Jobs are secured in this move and indeed our plans for new routes in the future, may see employment and investment increase.
“The people of Northern Ireland have supported Aer Lingus from the first day we took off here five years ago. We value that support and believe switching airports at this time cements our continued commitment to the market and our customers. We expect passenger numbers to grow because of the move and look forward to working with the management and staff of the city airport.”
Aer Lingus works closely with a number of partner airlines and expects transfer traffic with these airlines to grow through both Heathrow and Gatwick.
“We offer a seamless service, including baggage transfer with interline partners to many parts of the world in addition of course to the direct trans Atlantic routes we offer from Dublin Airport, 90 minutes down the road,” said Mr Mueller.
“We are very excited by the potential of this move to city airport, which will allow us to grow our offering in Northern Ireland over the coming years.”
Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of George Best Belfast City Airport said: “We extend a warm welcome to Aer Lingus and look forward to working closely with the airline in creating a strong base in which to develop a growing route network.
“I am delighted with the frequency of services to London Heathrow and Gatwick. By the end of October, Belfast City will offer Northern Ireland’s only linkage to Heathrow with 10 flights per day.
“Significant demand for European routes from Belfast City has already been proved and I am sure that sunshine destinations such as Malaga and Faro will prove popular with travellers.
“Considerable private investment focused on improving the facilities and passenger experience at the airport is paying considerable dividends for Belfast City.”
Aer Lingus will commence flying from George Best Belfast City Airport on Sunday 28th October 2012.
Customers with existing bookings from Belfast International Airport to London Heathrow for dates after the 28th October will be contacted in the coming days.
Flights to Heathrow, Gatwick, Malaga and Faro are currently on sale at aerlingus.com.
Fares start from as little as £19.99 one-way to London Heathrow and to London Gatwick for travel from 28th October and from £39.99 one-way to Malaga and Faro from 31st March 2013. For more information on fares and schedules visit aerlingus.com
Aer Lingus Director of Communications, Declan Kearney with Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport, Brian Ambrose following the announcement that Aer Lingus are to move to Belfast City Airport