50 jobs to go as Ryanair pulls out of Belfast

Ryanair has announced that it will close its Belfast City Airport base at the end of October.

Ryanair has announced that it will close its Belfast City Airport base at the end of October with the loss of 50 jobs.

The airline said it made the decision as a public inquiry into a promised runway extension will be further delayed. It however said all staff affected by the closure would be offered the option to relocate elsewhere in the UK or Europe.

"Ryanair regrets that despite repeated promises, the runway extension at Belfast City, which was originally scheduled to be delivered in 2008, still has not been approved by the Northern Ireland Government, and would now be the subject of a delayed public inquiry, which means the runway extension will not be delivered until 2012 at the earliest, some 4 years after it was originally promised," the low-fares airline said in a statement.

Ryanair launched the airport base in October 2007 and operated five routes to Britain from there. It said it had planned to open up a wide range of low fare European routes from/to Belfast City once the promised runway extension was delivered.

Ryanair CEO Michael O Leary said the decision was regrettable.

“It is very disappointing that the promised runway extension at Belfast City Airport has still not materialised more than three years after we opened the base at Belfast City,” he said.

“In these circumstances sadly we have better alternative airports elsewhere in the UK and Europe, all of whom are willing and able to provide us with the runway infrastructure and low cost facilities we need in order to operate our lowest fare flights immediately, safely and profitably.”

The airline said that Belfast City Airport would lose up to 1 million passengers annually as a result.

Tourism chiefs described the decision as "regrettable".

“Direct, convenient and competitive access services are critical to achieving a return to growth in inbound tourism," said Tourism Ireland Chief Executive Niall Gibbons.

“Tourism Ireland will continue its cooperative marketing efforts with the other carriers into Northern Ireland from the British market to help stimulate demand for holidays, short breaks and business travel." Mr Gibbons added.

"We will continue to highlight the great fares and packages available to get here and the excellent holiday offers provided by tourism industry partners."

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