Published Monday, 02 July 2012
Chief Executive of British Airways Willie Walsh with staff. (© Pacemaker)
The airline is resuming the service operated by bmi at Belfast City Airport after it was taken over by International Airlines Group (IAG).
Speaking at an event at City Airport on Monday, Willie Walsh, International Airlines Group's CEO said British Airways was delighted the route was again part of the airline's network and he was committed to maintaining the link.
The event marked the arrival of the first British Airways liveried aircraft to Belfast and was attended by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson, Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment and the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Gavin Robinson.
"I am delighted today to see the British Airways colours back in Belfast. I publicly committed to serving Belfast if we acquired additional runway slots at Heathrow and the acquisition of bmi has given us the perfect opportunity to make that happen," Mr Walsh said.
"We recognise the importance of the Heathrow link to Northern Ireland. Belfast is now part of our global network so this is good news for the economy. It will provide much needed access to key global markets, supporting more inward investment and jobs."
British Airways is maintaining the current summer schedule on the service, with six daily return flights, but has announced it will increase frequency when it introduces its winter schedule on October 28, adding an additional flight each day, bringing the total to seven.
Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland said he was pleased that British Airways is maintaining the route.
Arlene Foster, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said: "This is great news for the City Airport and for Northern Ireland. The London-Belfast route is of vital importance to our local economy and tourism industry.
"British Airways return to the City Airport after more than ten years, will further strengthen this link and deliver greater access for tourists and business travellers alike."
Brian Ambrose, Chief Executive of Belfast City Airport thanked the Secretary of State and Tourism Minister for their assistance in securing the Heathrow service.
Speaking on the day of the launch, the IAG chief also said he hoped that air passenger duty would be scrapped across the UK.
"A decision to devolve APD to Northern Ireland and Scotland could be a positive one but I would prefer if it was removed," Mr Walsh said.
Duty was reduced on direct long-haul routes from Northern Ireland last year following concerns expressed by Continental Airlines that its service from Belfast to Newark was threatened by low fare competition from Dublin, which has a different tax regime.
The CEO added: "If you have these high levels of air passenger duty people are choosing to fly from Dublin rather than Belfast."