Aer Lingus is to move its Belfast operations to the near-downtown George Best Belfast City Airport in late October after a five-year presence at...

Aer Lingus is to move its Belfast operations to the near-downtown George Best Belfast City Airport in late October after a five-year presence at Belfast International Airport, which is more than 30 miles outside Northern Ireland’s capital and largest city.

Following a tender process involving both airports, Aer Lingus has decided decision to base two aircraft at George Best Belfast City Airport (IATA code BHD) during the winter and three during the summer.

The airline’s winter schedule for 2012 will offer two key routes for business, leisure and transfer traffic from George Best Belfast City Airport to London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport. Aer Lingus will operate three round-trips daily to each of the two London airports.

Aer Lingus Airbus A321-200 EI-CPE is photographed making its landing approach to London Heathrow Airport

Aer Lingus’ summer schedule, which begins at the end of March 2013, will operate daily flights from Belfast City to two sun destinations, Malaga in southern Spain and Faro in southern Portugal, in addition to the three daily rotations each to London Heathrow and Gatwick.

“Northern Ireland’s vital London connections are secure with Aer Lingus,” says Christoph Mueller, Aer Lingus’ chief executive. “The two aircraft which we normally use in the winter for a mixture of sun destinations and Heathrow will be used for Heathrow and Gatwick, with a third aircraft serving two European routes in the new-look summer schedule.”

“This is a commercial decision delivering value for our customers and the company,” adds Mueller. “George Best Belfast City Airport delivers a compelling location and a strong history of business flying. We believe the move will appeal to the 600,000 plus passengers annually who fly with us and especially the business traveller, who now has a choice of two London airports with Aer Lingus.”

Continues Mueller: “Indeed, business travellers based in the Belfast city center will now be able to substantially reduce transit times from office to aircraft. Customers who are members of our Gold Circle frequent flyer program will also be able to use the business lounge facilities at George Best Belfast City Airport. We believe our dual offer of Heathrow and Gatwick supports the local marketplace during these challenging economic times.”

Mueller says the 100 jobs created in the UK£100 million ($155 million) investment made by Aer Lingus in Northern Ireland five years ago remain secure.

“We remain committed to the Northern Ireland marketplace,” says Mueller. “Jobs are secured in this move and indeed our plans for new routes in the future may see employment and investment increase.”

Aer Lingus works closely with a number of partner airlines and expects transfer traffic to grow at both Heathrow and Gatwick.

“I am delighted with the frequency of services to London Heathrow and Gatwick,” remarks Brian Ambrose, chief executive of George Best Belfast City Airport. “By the end of October, Belfast City will offer Northern Ireland’s only linkage to Heathrow, with 10 flights per day.”

Aer Lingus will begin flying from George Best Belfast City Airport on Sunday, October 28.

The airport is named after a world-famous, Belfast-born former Manchester United soccer player of the 1960s and 1970s, whose celebrity-status career was blighted by alcoholism but who many students of the sport believe was one of the game’s greatest-ever exponents.

George Best died on November 25, 2005, aged 59, of complications related to the immunosuppressant drugs he was taking following a liver transplant.

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