Budget airline Ryanair is announcing new flights from Belfast International Airport, almost a year after departing over a lack of post-Covid incentives and continued tax on domestic flights.
he airline is making an announcement about its operations in Northern Ireland tomorrow morning and has indicated that it will be “good news”.
It is understood new routes will focus on popular sun destinations such as Spain and the Canary Islands.
In August last year, Ryanair announced it was ending its routes from Belfast International, which included Alicante, Barcelona (Girona), Gdansk, Krakow, London Stansted, Malaga, Malta and Manchester. Routes from Belfast City Airport also stopped.
Aviation commentator Sean Moulton tweeted that early slot reports suggested it could base two aircraft at Belfast International Airport from the start of winter 2022.
The availability of two aircraft would enable the airline to serve around 10 routes from Belfast International.
However, Ryanair declined to comment further, while Belfast International also declined to comment.
Mr Moulton told the Belfast Telegraph: “Belfast is a large gap in Ryanair’s network and returning was inevitable in order to compete against existing carriers within the market.
“The focus is predominantly on leisure-based routes in Spain, a market which is rebounding quicker than business, and is in line with Ryanair’s recent growth within the UK, including Birmingham and Newcastle.”
Travel agent Colum McLornan, who owns Friendship Travel, said Ryanair’s return was welcome news.
“This is just what our clients need. At peak times many clients have to travel down to Dublin to get seats. But having new routes and more affordable seats available direct from Aldergrove will be a huge help this winter.
“As people’s budgets come under pressure during winter, Ryanair will offer great-value fares.”
While it had ceased its flights from Belfast International and Belfast City, Ryanair introduced a new route from City of Derry Airport to Manchester in December.
Announcing its departure from the two airports in August, the company said: “Due to the UK Government’s refusal to suspend or reduce air passenger duty [APD]and the lack of Covid recovery incentives from both Belfast airports, this winter Ryanair will cease operations from Belfast International and Belfast City Airport from the end of the summer schedule in October…
“These aircraft will be reallocated to lower-cost airports elsewhere in the UK and Europe for the winter schedule, which starts in November.”
However, APD remains in place and is currently charged on short-haul flights from the UK at a rate of £13.
Last month, Ryanair announced what it said was its “biggest ever” winter schedule in the Republic, with 156 routes from Ireland now timetabled for winter 2022/23.
The schedule features seven new routes, including winter services from Dublin to Lapland (Rovaniemi), Castellón, Genoa, Klagenfurt, Rome Fiumicino and Venice, as well as Cork to Newcastle.