The airport’s Managing Director, Graham Keddie, says the inclusion of Berlin and Milan represents a long-awaited breakthrough into the lucrative German and Italian markets, and is a cause for major celebration in Northern Ireland.
Mr Keddie said: “When Ryanair announced its decision in January to open a new Northern Ireland base at the International Airport, we’d been told to expect five new routes in addition to Gatwick.
“Today, five routes have become seven with Berlin and Milan topping the list. To say we’re delighted with this expansion would be an under-statement. For us, the inclusion of Berlin fulfils a major ambition, and is the long-awaited breakthrough we have worked to achieve.
“This new network comes at no cost to the taxpayer or support from Government. It will provide direct access to Northern Ireland, drive up tourism numbers, increase Northern Ireland’s international appeal and lead to many hundreds of new jobs.
“These new jobs will be at the airport and the ever-increasing supply chain. Already, we’ve announced close to 300 new jobs which will generate £4.8 million in wages, but that’s just the beginning of an amazing period of growth and expansion that will be the inevitable consequence of this most welcome announcement.
“Belfast International has just recorded a February growth rate of 20% over the same month last year. Our existing airlines are adding capacity which is wonderful news for the passenger. It has to be remembered that the February figure was achieved without the positive impact of Ryanair so, clearly, we’re heading in the right direction for an impressive year of passenger growth.
“This sector is being transformed for the better. Seven new international routes are a wonderful vote of confidence by Ryanair. We have a glimpse of what is possible and we’re determined, with or without Government support, to lead an aggressive route expansion that will deliver greater choice and, crucially, new opportunities for in-bound tourism.”
Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary said: “We are pleased to launch our Belfast winter 2016 schedule, which grows to three based aircraft, seven new routes to Alicante, Berlin, Krakow, Lanzarote, Malaga, Milan and Tenerife, as well as extra flights to London Gatwick (five times daily), and will deliver over one million customers p.a. and support 750 jobs at our Belfast International base.
“Our five times daily London Gatwick service will be perfect for both business and leisure customers and we look forward to growing routes, traffic and jobs in Belfast in the coming months and years.”
North Antrim MP Ian Paisley has welcomed today’s announcement by Ryanair described it as “fantastic news”.
“This is great news for the economy, for job creation, for Northern Ireland holiday makers and for tourists,” Mr Paisley said.
He addded: “I am particularly pleased to hear that Berlin has been announced as a new route as Northern Ireland has not enjoyed direct connections to Germany for a number of years.
“This is encouraging news and I am confident that we will welcome more German visitors to the Province, not just for pleasure but for business purposes as well.”
South Antrim DUP MLA, Pam Cameron has welcomed the news saying it has been “a phenomenal year for Belfast International Airport” with today’s announcement further adding to the long list of achievements.
“The addition of the new routes which include Berlin and Milan open Northern Ireland to greater inbound and outbound tourism opportunities. It also ensures that our business community have convenient access to the rest of Europe without having to travel to Dublin,” Mrs Cameron said.
She added: “This announcement is testament to the hard work of the team at the airport, led by Managing Director Graham Keddie.
“I am confident that the momentum that the team have created will continue and we’ll see further growth in the near future.”