Ryanair and Aer Lingus cuts to Belfast services ‘very regrettable’

Tourism Ireland chief disappointed at decision to end flights to Faro and Malaga next summer

Belfast International Airport said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ by Ryanair’s decision to cut back on flights to the Canary Islands. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Belfast International Airport said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ by Ryanair’s decision to cut back on flights to the Canary Islands. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA Wire

 

Decisions by both Ryanair and Aer Lingus to axe services and abandon routes from Belfast International and Belfast City airports has been described as “very regrettable” by the boss of the cross-Border agency that markets the island of Ireland overseas.

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.

“We continue to promote Northern Ireland vigorously around the world, positioning Northern Ireland as a year-round, ‘must visit’ destination, to ensure that the contribution of overseas tourism to the local economy continues to expand,” Mr Gibbons said.

The agency has previously been criticised by both the DUP’s Ian Paisley jnr who has claimed that “Tourism Ireland first and foremost has to promote the Republic of Ireland” and Uel Hoey, business development director of Belfast International Airport, who has also complained about how the North is marketed.

Tourism Ireland has always refuted these claims.

Aer Lingus has confirmed it intends to cancel its services from Belfast City Airport to Faro and Malaga next summer.

“The decision was made following a commercial review which determined that the routes were not performing in line with expectations,” a spokeswoman said.

Ryanair did not specify which routes it plans to axe from Belfast International Airport and would only confirm that a “number of loss-making Ryanair bases will be cut or closed this winter” but it is likely to be flights from Northern Ireland to the Canary Islands that will be most affected.

Belfast International Airport, which earlier this week was rated as the “worst” airport in the UK in an annual survey carried out by independent consumer body Which?, said it was “extremely disappointed” by Ryanair’s decision and said the UK’s Air Passenger Duty was to blame.

A spokeswoman for the airport said: “There remains a strong market demand for direct air services to those destinations which will no longer be served by Ryanair. We have already secured some additional capacity to the Canary Islands and will continue to work with our airline partners to replace lost services.”