Saturday, 15 February 2020

Northern Ireland looks to grow air connectivity

                                                 
Belfast City Airport 
On the 9th January it was announced a deal to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland had been reached between the political parties. The deal, entitled "New Decade, New Approach".

Annex B of New Decade, New Approach outlines Irish Government Commitments to improving North-South air connectivity working in partnership with the Northern Ireland Executive and the UK Government adding "The Irish Government also intends to take forward a review of the potential for Government support to renewed viable air routes from Cork to Belfast and Dublin to Derry, working with the UK Government and Northern Ireland Executive to deliver improved connections as a priority".

Interestingly no reference was made to re-establish air connectivity with North America following the closure of routes from Belfast International to New York and Boston post withdrawal of Norwegian Airlines and United Airlines given significant US investment in North America.

On 3rd February UK Aviation Minister, Paul Maynard MP visited Belfast International Airport and City of Derry Airport as Regional Air Connectivity Review. Subsequently the importance of regional air connectivity and the unfair burden of Air Passenger Duty (APD) were items on the agenda.

Belfast International Managing Director, Graham Keddie said "We welcome the government’s current review of both regional air connectivity and Air Passenger Duty (APD).  We again made the case for the removal of APD on short-haul routes, we stressed the importance of direct, reliable, frequent services to the main GB markets for the growth of our economy and the continued development of the local tourism sector.  If the domestic share of APD was eliminated, it would give this airport, and the Northern Ireland region, the biggest economic boost".

CoDA Board Member Albert Harrison said "City of Derry Airport plays an integral role in making Derry-Londonderry and the wider North West City Region a more attractive and competitive proposition for inward investors as well as the development and growth of the region’s tourism potential, whilst also delivering economic and social benefits to local communities and the North-West region as a whole".

Niall Gibbons, chief executive of Tourism Ireland, said direct and competitive air services are “Critical to achieving growth in inbound tourism”.

Mr Gibbons said Tourism Ireland was committed to working with all airports to attract new carriers and services to the North and believed its policy of targeted marketing campaigns overseas would help drive demand for new air routes in and out of Northern Ireland.

In the medium to long-term it remains to been seen if Air Passenger Duty (APD) will be reduced to zero to enable Northern Ireland compete Ireland on equal competitive terms or if the Northern Ireland Executive will re-establish the Northern Ireland Route Development Fund to underpin existing routes and create new growth opportunities.

Aer Lingus and Flybe have Belfast City bases and Easyjet and Jet2 Belfast International bases.

Irish Aviation Research Institute © 15 February 2020 All Rights Reserved.

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