An airline has ceased operations at Belfast International Airport after citing safety concerns over a runway resurfacing project.
Jet2 said it would not be flying into or out of the airport until it had received reassurances about the maintenance work at the Co Antrim facility.
In response to the decision, the airport said one Jet2 aircraft had reported “engine related problems” three times in the last three weeks - a period when work on the resurfacing programme had been disrupted due to adverse weather conditions.
A spokeswoman for Belfast International said an investigation was under way, but insisted that no other aircraft - either from Jet2 or from any other carrier - had reported a similar issue and claimed there was no conclusive evidence linking the reported engine problems with the runway maintenance.
“Despite this, and indeed the implementation of additional precautionary measures by the airport in the meantime, the airline has decided to withdraw all flights,” she said.
The airline has made clear that its withdrawal from the airport is temporary.
Jet2’s scheduled flight between Belfast International and Leeds today will now operate from George Best Belfast City Airport.
The airline said it would make an announcement on its international flights later in the week.
It is unclear whether the runway at City airport could accommodate Jet2’s continental-bound aircraft.
Ian Doubtfire, managing director of Jet2.com, said: “We took the difficult decision to cease operations at Belfast International Airport at midnight on Sunday 7th April 2013.
“This is due to increased safety concerns during the current runway maintenance programme.
“Our domestic flights operating on Monday 8th April between Belfast and Leeds will operate from Belfast City Airport. All passengers on these flights should either check in at Belfast International or head straight to Belfast City Airport. We will make a further announcement regarding our international flights operating this week.
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may cause; however, the safety of our customers is of paramount importance and we will not operate from Belfast International Airport until we have reassurances on the runway maintenance.”
The spokeswoman from Belfast International Airport said: “We can confirm that we are engaged in an extensive runway resurfacing project at Belfast International, but the unseasonal weather has prevented any substantive work taking place for almost three weeks.
“During this down-time, one Jet2 aircraft has been reported as exhibiting engine-related problems on three occasions.
“No other airline, nor indeed any other Jet2 aircraft or aircraft of this type, has reported any similar issue.
“A full investigation is under way to assess what actually occurred. At this stage, there is no conclusive evidence connecting these reported problems with the runway maintenance at Belfast International Airport.”
She added: “At all times, aircraft and passenger safety is the main priority at Belfast International Airport. Safety is non-negotiable. It is never taken for granted. It is at the forefront of everything we do, and we are proud of the exemplary record which enables the airport to keep Northern Ireland moving when other airports in the region have been unable to do so.
“We will, of course, be working to minimise any disruption caused to passengers as a result of this decision, but wish to assure them of our continuing uncompromising commitment to their safety and well-being.”