Aer Lingus 'planning Belfast switch'

 

Aer Lingus is believed to be planning to switch its operations from Belfast International Airport to Belfast City Airport.

It follows the City’s loss of BMI Baby — which carried 400,000 passengers a year. The airport is expected to confirm details of new airlines soon.

Aer Lingus flies to Heathrow and seven European destinations, but could expand routes to regional UK airports from the City, filling some of the lost BMI Baby routes and competing with Flybe.

Belfast International Airport made no comment.

A spokesman for George Best Belfast City Airport said: “Following the announcement of the departure of BMI Baby we stated that we were confident that we would attract new airlines.

“This position has not changed and we expect to make several announcements in the coming weeks.

“We are certainly not in a position to comment on speculation regarding specific airlines at this stage.” A formal announcement may come in days.

Today, an Aer Lingus spokeswoman said: “It is pure speculation and no such decision has been reached.” The move would make George Best Belfast City Airport Belfast’s only Heathrow connection.

With the takeover of BMI by British Airways there had been concerns over that route.

BA has confirmed its commitment to the route but there remains speculation that there may be long-term plans for both airlines to work together on the Belfast-Heathrow connection.

Aer Lingus currently operates flights to Alicante, Barcelona, Faro, Lanzarote, Las Palmas, London Heathrow, Malaga and Tenerife.

Budget airline BMI Baby was taken over in April by the International Airline Group, parent company of British Airways.

Belfast City has said 420,000 of its passengers last year had flown with BMI Baby.

Separately, Aer Lingus said it welcomed the decision of the UK’s Office of Fair Trading to refer Ryanair’s stake in the airline to the Competition Commission.

Chief executive Christoph Mueller said the decision supported its view that Ryanair’s minority stake in the company was “contrary to the interests of consumers and the majority of our shareholders”.

Ryanair, meanwhile, said it was confident that competition watchdogs would find that it should not be forced to sell its shareholding.

PA