It’s back to normal! The Christmas and New Year passenger rush is over, and it’s full speed ahead for 2015! We have new services commencing this year, notably Jet2 with four new destinations, Virgin Atlantic to Florida and new arrival, Wizz Air.
We’re quietly confident that easyJet will expand into new European destinations, so watch this space. There’s a strong likelihood that the International will add up to ten new routes during what is set to be a busy 12-month period.
As we prepare for a return to growth, work will continue on a range of improvements throughout the Terminal.
We have our sights set on much, much more. Work will continue to re-establish a Canadian service and 2015 will see all the preparation for the planned start of a direct Turkish Airlines Belfast-Istanbul service next year.
Airlines have expansion back on their agendas, and our mission is to ensure that the International and Northern Ireland are on their wish-lists.
So, in a tangible sense, what’s good for the International is good for the wider economy. Only the International is capable of delivering the type of long-haul international growth that this region requires, but it has to have support from the Assembly and Executive if it’s to succeed.
In short, what we want is a scheme or programme that boosts this sector and provides practical start-up financial assistance to airlines. We do it for inward investment projects and this sector is no different.
This business never rests on its laurels. We’ve hit the ground running, and that’s the pace we will maintain for the rest of 2015.
We will continue to campaign for the devolution of Air Passenger Duty (APD). APD will not apply to under-12s this year, and u-16s from next year, but it’s still a barrier to growth and a disadvantage we have to contend with when Dublin has sensibly jettisoned the tax.
We’ll do our bit but others will have to make their contribution if we’re to realise our full potential as a region.