Ryanair drops Belfast City over runway extension delays

Ryanair is to close its Belfast City Airport base on 31 October, following the airport’s confirmation that the public inquiry into the promised runway extension will be further delayed.

Ryanair noted that “despite repeated promises, the runway extension at Belfast City, which was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2008, still has not been approved by the Northern Ireland Government, and would now be the subject of a delayed public inquiry, which means the runway extension will not be delivered until 2012 at the earliest, some 4 years after it was originally promised”.

The carrier, which launched its Belfast City base in October 2007, operates five routes to the UK because of the short runway but had planned to open up a wide range of low fare European routes once the promised runway extension was delivered.

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary commented, “It is very disappointing that the promised runway extension at Belfast City Airport has still not materialised more than three years after we opened the base. It makes no sense for Ryanair to continue to invest in Belfast City, operating restricted routes with less than full payloads between Belfast and other UK airports (which suffer a double APD penalty) unless there is clear and immediate prospect of Ryanair being enabled to safely operate longer European routes from Belfast City Airport and for this we need the runway extension.

“While we recognise the right of the Government and people of Northern Ireland to subject this small runway extension to an extended planning process, these repeated delays, the reference to a public inquiry and now the further delay to the public inquiry for spurious noise reasons, shows a lack of willingness on the part of the local authorities to grow and develop traffic, routes, tourism and jobs in Northern Ireland.

“We will of course continue to work with Brian Ambrose and his team at Belfast City Airport, and wish them continued success in securing the runway extension, but we are not prepared to continue to operate at Belfast City with restricted routes and loads because of repeated planning delays. I would like to personally thank Brian Ambrose and his team for their help and support in developing a successful route network there in recent years.”

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