Belfast is one of the smaller cities in Europe to be served by two airports, each of which handles over one million passengers per annum. While Belfast International saw passenger numbers fall by 13% to 4.5 million in 2009, George Best Belfast City Airport (as it was renamed in May 2006) experienced an increase in passenger numbers of 2% to 2.6 million. For many years the airport was dominated by Flybe but in late October 2007 Ryanair launched its first flights from the airport, resulting in airport passenger numbers growing by almost 18% in 2008. In 2009 the airport was one of the few in the UK to report passenger growth.
In January of this year, easyJet also started serving the airport, with double-daily flights from its London Luton headquarters. As a result, despite the disruption caused by the Icelandic volcanic eruption in April, passenger numbers at Belfast City airport are up 10.5% in the first half of 2010.
Flybe still offers most routes, flights and seats
One of the key features of the airport (apart from its enviable downtown location) is a runway that is just 1,800 metres long. As a result, the range of destinations is somewhat restricted. All current scheduled services are either to UK or Irish destinations, though there are charter services in winter to assorted ski destinations in France and Italy.
|Airline||Frequency share||Capacity share||Routes|
|bmi British Midland||10.4%||12.1%||1|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 2 August 2010|
Flybe remains the largest carrier at the airport operating its Q400s on many domestic routes. On the busier routes such as Birmingham, London Gatwick and Manchester, it also operates its larger E195s. Ryanair serves its UK bases at Bristol, East Midlands, Glasgow Prestwick, Liverpool and London Stansted.
However, the busiest single route is to London Heathrow which is operated by bmi. Last year over 520,000 passengers traveled on the route. Curiously all four of the biggest London airports are served by different carriers; Heathrow by bmi, Gatwick by Flybe, Luton by easyJet and Stansted by Ryanair. Prior to Ryanair starting services from Stansted, airberlin operated double-daily flights from its short-lived Stansted ‘mini-hub’. Air France (CityJet) services to London City were terminated in May 2008.