Winter flights boost might be a sign of traffic health at BIA

Morning View
Morning View

The announcement of almost 300,000 additional winter seats at Belfast International Airport (BIA) is good news for the Province.

Aldergrove is located close to the centre of Northern Ireland, yet faces major combined competition from Derry Airport, Belfast City and, latterly, Dublin.

Hundreds of thousands of travellers like the convenience of Belfast City but its proximity to central Belfast and to high density neighbourhoods means that it will not (or should not) be allowed a runway as big as Belfast International.

There was a time, over decade ago, when Northern Ireland had barely any direct international regular scheduled routes. There was a proliferation of such routes just before the financial downturn, before the number of destinations went into decline again.

A major problem is the single carriageway road link, which is pitiable between Aldergrove and both the M1 and M2. It has made the contrast with Dublin all the greater. Dublin Airport for almost a decade has had a dual carriageway or motorway stretching from Belfast to right close to the terminal building, making it a very easy airport to reach from Northern Ireland.

There are 24-hour coach services from Belfast to Dublin Airport, which has multiple destinations round the world.

But Belfast International is not remotely as attractive to southern travellers. It has an awkward road link when approaching from the south, and then a still relatively small number of flight destinations.

There is an insufficient critical mass of travellers to justify the vast cost of a fast rail link to Aldergrove (partly because the popular demand for airports at Belfast City and Derry has greatly diminished traffic numbers at BIA).

All of this has made it hard for Aldergrove to be a serious alternative to Dublin Airport.

The confirmation of these extra winter seats might be a sign, however, of future traffic health at Belfast International.