Budget airline Ryanair has announced the opening of a new base at Belfast International Airport, after an absence of almost six years from the city.
The company has said that 90 jobs will be created as a result of the move, while upwards of 750 could be created over the course of the next 18 months.
Ryanair is confident the new routes will bring an additional one million passengers to the airport, and will be starting a four times daily service to London Gatwick from this March. Five more routes are planned to operate from the airport, however the airline won’t be unveiling these routes until October 2016.
Currently, the landing slots for Belfast flights at Gatwick are occupied by Aer Lingus. As part of its takeover conditions by International Airlines Group, Aer Lingus must relinquish the slots by March 2016.
Ryanair had left Belfast City Airport in 2010 after delays in a planned runway extension, which the airline had wanted in order to operate flights to more European destinations.
“We are hopeful that we can introduce some new European routes of a business nature and some sunshine routes at much-needed lower fares,” said Ryanair’s chief commercial officer David O’Brien.
Belfast International Airport managing director, Graham Keddie, said: “This is a most welcome announcement. The jobs and investment are considerable and amount to a valuable inward investment at low or no cost to the taxpayer.”
Niall Gibbons, CEO of Tourism Ireland, said: “This announcement is good news for tourism to Northern Ireland, as we kick off our 2016 promotional drive, particularly given Ryanair’s statement to introduce additional flights this autumn. We already work closely with Ryanair and we look forward to co-operating with them to maximise the promotion of this new flight from London Gatwick to Belfast.”