Not one. Not two, but three airline announcements dominated our week in the run-up to the Easter break.
First, we had easyJet, followed by Wizz Air and rounded off perfectly with Jet2. Literally, tens of thousands more seats to established domestic destinations, and new routes to Katowice in Poland, Vilnius in Lithuania, Prague and Rome.
And the strong likelihood of more to follow.
As part of its winter schedule, easyJet is adding 125,000 seats to Gatwick, Stansted and London Luton and 35,000 seats to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham.easyJet’s decision followed a strong case that was made by the airport and means greater choice for passengers and increased access for holiday-makers from Northern Ireland’s main tourist market in Great Britain. easyJet’s expansion could lead to the creation of more than 100 new aviation-related jobs.
Hard on the heels of easyJet came Wizz Air with the first flight in from Katowice. It was given the ‘red carpet’ treatment with the support of the Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton MLA, who warmly welcomed the expansion. Vilnius will be Wizz Air’s second route which will commence later in the month.
The Minister said: “After my second visit to Estonia last week, to build business ties and advance digital collaboration with the Estonian Government, I can see the economic potential more direct flights to Eastern Europe can bring.
“Belfast International Airport is to be congratulated for securing Wizz Air’s two new routes and this increased air connectivity has the potential to deliver significant economic benefits for Northern Ireland by helping to boost trade, increase foreign direct investment and promote our appeal as a tourist destination.”
Simon’s colleague, the Tourism and Economy Minister, Arlene Foster MLA, also added her congratulations: “Belfast International Airport is to be commended for securing the introduction of Wizz Air as a new airline to Northern Ireland. The new direct services to Katowice in Poland and Vilnius in Lithuania will help to improve our connectivity to business and inbound tourism markets in Eastern Europe and I am hopeful that the success of these routes will encourage Wizz Air to further extend its Northern Ireland route network.”
That last sentiment is one we are working to make a reality.
Jet2 joined in the Easter party atmosphere by launching Rome and Prague. Jet2 now operates to eighteen destinations, and 2015 will be its biggest year to date with the introduction of a third dedicated aircraft and five new routes.
Jet2 is making available more than a quarter of a million seats for Northern Ireland passengers this year with more than 70 services per week operating to the 18 destinations.
It’s a win-win for Northern Ireland as the expansion will lead to 86 new jobs being created including flight and cabin crew, engineers and ground operations staff.
Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, delighted in the week-that-was: “These three airlines have given us all a great lift. New routes, greater choice, hundreds of thousands of additional seats and new jobs combine to make this a most memorable week.
“It’s been a cracker! That said, we won’t be resting on our laurels. There will be no let-up in our efforts to expand the full range of destinations on offer from the International. We will continue to make every effort to support airlines with their ambitious plans.
“For now, though, it’s Happy Easter from me, and enjoy the break.”