Low-cost airline Ryanair has said it could add even more routes from Belfast International Airport after announcing four new overseas routes from next year.
t said a “very competitive” deal with the airport sealed the deal, allowing it to add routes to Valencia, Cardiff, Mallorca and Budapest in addition to the 12 announced earlier this year.
The Irish company suspended operations from the airport in 2021 ostensibly in protest at the UK government’s continued collection of Air Passenger Duty (APD) and the lack of post-Covid incentives from the airport.
The UK government has since halved the levy on domestic flights to £6.50 from April next year.
Speaking to the Business Telegraph, Dara Brady, Ryanair’s director of marketing and digital, said an agreement with the International has paid off and allowed it to extend its flight schedule.
He said it will assess the performance of the 16 tracks next summer before adding it to the schedule. “There are still opportunities for growth in the medium term. Of course we have to get the schedule for next summer up and running. While it’s still early days, we’ve seen good early signs of bookings and we think route selection will do well. From a brand perspective, we are very well known in NI.”
But he didn’t go into the details of the deal with the airport, once dubbed “Lough Neagh Airport” by Ryanair’s outspoken CEO Michael O’Leary. The airport did not comment.
Mr Brady said: “Ultimately we worked very closely with the airport on a long-term contract that gives us cost certainty. Obviously reducing APD on domestic flights is a help, but we have argued that the government should do away with this altogether.
“It is hugely important that airports remain competitive from a cost and access perspective and that makes them very attractive to airlines like Ryanair.”
Pressure on airports to offer competitive deals to airlines has increased in the wake of the pandemic, he said.
“To be fair, we struck a good deal with Belfast International and it underpins our relaunch of two Belfast-based aircraft with an investment of US$200 million.
“It’s just a very competitive deal that has worked for them and us. Of course we won’t reveal what it means for us economically and what it means in essence, but it’s a very competitive business that has the right incentive for us to be in it.”
He said the airline “worked hard with the airport to get a number that works for them and for us.”
“Our business model works to keep costs as low as possible and this allows us to offer the lowest fares on the market and it is one of the key criteria for airports that we can get cheap offers over such a long period of time. and we have.”
Ryanair’s new routes follow an announcement by German airline Lufthansa to fly from Belfast City Airport to Frankfurt from April 2023. It is Lufthansa’s first foray into the Northern Irish market.
Mr Brady said the selection of Budapest as the new route follows its success as a Ryanair destination from UK airports and Dublin. He said he expected it to be a successful NI city break destination.
He expects Mallorca to be a hit for sun-seekers, while Valencia, also in Spain, will appeal to both sun-bathers and city-travellers.
The 12 Belfast routes announced by Ryanair earlier this year to depart in summer 2023 are Alicante, Faro, Barcelona-Girona, Malaga, Manchester, Milan-Bergamo, Stansted, Paris Beauvais, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gdansk and Krakow.
“The four new routes will complement our other 12 routes really well, which is really a mix of very strong links to the UK and some great city pairs and lots of really good sun stuff. We are very optimistic that we will have a very good summer up there in Belfast.”
The new 16 route schedule means Ryanair will operate over 140 flights to and from Belfast International each week.
“It’s a big schedule with a lot of flights, but we’re very confident that we can pull it off.”
Ryanair announced it was returning to Belfast earlier this year, saying it means 800 direct and indirect jobs would be supported.
Mr Brady said: “If planes are based there it means the planes start and end their day in Belfast. This creates jobs such as cabin crew and pilots who are stationed there on the market.
“Then there are support jobs like ground operations, check-in staff and support staff, and that impacts passengers coming out and being transported to hotels and expenses in restaurants — it’s all an economic benefit that impacts the broader economy. “
And he said it was not interested in having routes from Belfast City Airport, which will lose Aer Lingus as the operator. “We are very committed to Belfast International and that’s where you will see our growth.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/ryanair-could-add-more-routes-from-belfast-international-airport-after-very-competitive-deal-seals-return-42231876.html Ryanair could add more routes from Belfast International Airport after the return of the “very competitive” deal