News that Heathrow will expand its services with a long-awaited third runway is good news for the province Economy Minister Simon Hamilton has claimed.
Welcoming the announcement from London, Mr Hamilton said the airport was a key route for access to London, mainland Europe and other important markets.
“Our connectivity to global business and inward tourism markets is dependent on the high frequency, economic and easy to use connections to international flights through a hub airport such as Heathrow.”
The Minister’s welcome was widely reflected across the business community as Ann McGregor, CEO of the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry hailed it as “the right decision for Northern Ireland,” and said an expanded Heathrow would herald a new era of connectivity for the province.
“Easyjet has said they want to fly from Heathrow to Belfast International and Flybe have said they want to fly from Heathrow to Derry City Airport.
“That is on top of securing the flights we already have from Belfast City. That means more flights to Heathrow, from more Northern Irish airports, with a greater choice of airlines for passengers.”
In its own statement Flybe said any final decision on the Government’s announcement on airport expansion at London Heathrow Airport must incorporate assurances that it becomes a hub for the whole of the UK.
“Flybe calls on the Government to ensure that some of the new capacity is reserved for operators of regional aircraft at affordable prices.”
The carrier said it had been encouraged by Heathrow’s recently announced plans to support regional flights and said it wanted to see those plans progressed.
“Without such flights, the UK regions will miss out on much-needed connectivity to the capital and to long-haul destinations via Heathrow.”
Wilfred Mitchell of the FSB said: “The Heathrow announcement is welcome news as it promises greater regional connectivity and new routes to overseas destinations, boosting exports and connecting local small businesses to new markets.
“We are also pleased to see the Government focus on the importance of new domestic routes to increase regional connectivity. FSB will be working with Government and Heathrow to ensure maximum regional connectivity to support small businesses in Northern Ireland.”
NIIRTA chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “This is the right decision for Northern Ireland and the UK economy as a whole, particularly with the approach of Brexit and the need for increased global air connectivity”
“NIIRTA has long supported the need to expand Heathrow as it will secure Northern Ireland’s connection to a globally competitive hub airport enabling increased tourism which will boost spending in our local retail sector.”