Welcome news of extra flights at Aldergrove

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The three new plane routes to Poland announced for later this year are good news for Belfast International Airport.

Northern Ireland has ended up with three airports – Derry, Belfast City and Aldergrove.

As a result of such extensive provision, not one of those airports has much chance of becoming big, given that they represent a population of 1,8 million.

Belfast International has always had the largest number of passengers, but in recent years it seemed heavily reliant on package holiday flights, particularly after the main shuttle services to Heathrow switched to Belfast City.

It is convenient for consumers to have three airports but it makes it almost impossible for any one of those facilities to develop the sort of critical mass that might threaten Dublin Airport. The latter now has a motorway almost to the door from Belfast. It has excellent, fast coach connections, both public and private.

Dublin is a classic example of what happens when an airport does reach a critical mass. People will travel to use it, particularly if the connecting infrastructure is good.

The infrastructure to Belfast International Airport is poor. There is no rail link, but that is the fault of everyone who wanted three airports – having three airports has cut the number of people using Aldergrove and so has undermined the viability of any rail link.

However, the road link could still be markedly improved, from the M2 near Templepatrick to the M1 near Moira. Traffic levels are sufficiently high to justify an upgrade, and that road forms part of an important strategic route.

The new Poland routes have probably been launched due to demand from the eastern European migrants working in Northern Ireland.

Whatever the reason, the flights will increase the passenger numbers at Belfast International and push the facility a bit closer to being what it should be.