Belfast City Airport waves goodbye to Ryanair … for now?

Belfast City Airport frontage

Belfast City Airport will be hoping for better luck in September. Having run a couple of Community Information Days last week that were advertised to 21,000 local homes but only ended up attracting 42 people into the airport terminal to learn more about the airport’s activities and plans for the runway extension, Ryanair broke bad news this morning.

Ryanair don’t do subtle gestures, and in the case of the city airport they’re pulling their aircraft off the local tarmac from 1 November, ceasing the routes to Bristol, East Midlands, Liverpool, London Stansted and Prestwick from 31 October.

At this morning’s press conference in the Europa Hotel, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said:

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.

It makes no sense for Ryanair to continue to invest in Belfast City, operating restricted routes with less than full payloads between Belfast and other UK airports (which suffer a double APD penalty) unless there is clear and immediate prospect of Ryanair being enabled to safely operate longer European routes from Belfast City Airport and for this we need the runway extension.

The journey towards a public inquiry looking at the proposed runway extension has been a long drawn out process, that was delayed again in August.

It’s unlikely that O’Leary’s intervention will speed up the process. More likely it’ll encourage easyJet to continue their bargaining between Belfast International and Belfast City airports and perhaps shift more flights down from Aldergrove to the harbour.

The airport’s Business Development Director, Katy Best said she was disappointed at Ryanair’s decision. However:

Ryanair’s announcement will not divert us in pursuing the continued development of the airport. Our goal still remains to attract new airlines and new destinations to and from Belfast City Airport resulting in a much needed economic boost for the region.

The extension would add 590 metres to the Holywood end of the runway would allow the existing aircraft to fly fully laden with passengers and fuel, offering destinations further afield in mainland Europe. The physical layout of the current airport site means that the longer runway wouldn’t attract larger aircraft. The City Airport’s current planning constraint means it can operate no more than 48,000 flights each year. Last year they managed 39,328 flights carrying 2.60 million passengers; in 2008 they peaked at 42,998 flights for 2.56 million people.

While community and campaign groups like Belfast City Airport Watch Ltd have voiced concerns and actively fought against the extension, their demands seem to stop short of requesting a radical cutback in the airport’s operations – eg, halving the current flight limit. Perhaps the local jobs at stake make that an ask too far?

Sinn Féin’s local East Belfast representative Niall Ó Donnghaile commented:

While I’m sure many residents will not be mourning the apparent loss of Ryanair, I think this move by Michael O’Leary is an extremely retrograde step and will only punish Ryanair workers as well as the local economy and air travel commuters.

Dawn Purvis MLA reacted to Ryanair’s announcement:

While it is regrettable, it is not surprising, Mr O’Leary has long made his views known regarding the democratic right of the people of East Belfast to lodge their objections and lobby their elected representatives against a runway extension which would add to the already nuisance levels of noise and other forms of pollution. Mr O’Leary probably needs reminded that we live in a democratic country not a fascist state where profit is more important than the health and well being of its citizens.

My major concern in all of this is that Mr O’Leary’s ‘hissy fit’ does not cost jobs, I hope he has the decency to ensure that these employees can be redeployed elsewhere within Ryan Air operations.

Update – In July, Ryanair announced a three-month suspension of flights from Bournemouth airport between 1 November 2010 and 31 January 2011, citing the government’s £11 tourist tax. Are the effects of the economic downturn being used to make a different political point in each region affected? Other quotes from politicians, organisations and community representatives can be found on the BBC’s round-up page.

, ,

  • sammymehaffey

    Surely it is ridiculous not to allow the runway extension if only on the grounds of safety. The limit on the number of flights allowed from the airport would itself ensure that there is only a slight increase in movements.

  • If you had any idea of the total incompetance of the “Ports & Airports” branch of the DRD you would have no problem in understanding this decision.

    Yet again I put the blame for this squarely with Mr. Murphy’s Dept. of “[edited] & Dim-wits”

  • PaddyC

    does it not seem to anyone else that O’Leary might be trying to call the airport’s and government’s bluff?

    I’m not sure but it doesn’t seem likely to me that Ryanair would pull out of NI altogether.

    Anyone know what percentage of the city airport’s business is generated by Ryanair as compared to the other airlines that fly from there?

  • One estimate was that 800,000 passengers flew with Ryanair via Belfast City last year – so around a third of their passengers.

  • William Markfelt

    ‘we live in a democratic country not a fascist state’

    Oh, really?

    Not what we want to be hearing from a member of PAC whose job it is to question why testimony from the likes of Declan Gormley is ‘airbrushed’ from an IRT report.

    Looks to me like he had a little crossed out stick man stitched to the front of his jacket.

    On the matter of Ryanair, they’re shit, always have been and always will be and will pull any stroke in the book to avoid their responsibilities (i.e ash cloud disruption compensation).

  • Frequent Flyer

    Dawn Purvis has obviously flown Ryanair in the past and had to pay for airport check-in or something. She’s clearly not a big fan of Mr O’Leary!

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s an interesting figure. So Paddy could be right.

    And it’s pretty impressive given the short time they’ve been there. My hunch would be that they’ve drummed up a lot of new customers rather than just taken them from other operators.

    Then Ryanair needs big volumes to make the business plan work…

    What I do know is that sitting in a back garden near the shore in Holywood, you can barely hear Flybe, but you are left in no doubt when Ryanair is taking off.

  • Stephen Blacker

    It is said that O’Leary is in it for the money, in his Newsline interview he admitted he has made good money out of his routes from George Best City so I dont believe he will walk away and leave these established routes for another airline to snap up!

    O’Leary is a shrewd businessman and this announcement of leaving might well push forward the runway extention because it will hit Belfast economically and the minority that are effected by noise and safety will be forgot about. I hope this does not happen but everyone knows that money is God in this country.

  • Canny See It Sur

    I might add, Paddy, that pulling out of Belfast does not mean pulling out of NI altogether. Belfast and NI are not one and the same.

    Ryanair have a successful operation in Derry (which also happens to be in NI), where they’re also getting the runway extension they wanted.

  • PaddyC

    didn’t realise they flew from derry, how does the operation there compare to the one they have in belfast city in passenger numbers and routes?

    derry or no derry i would imagine that pulling out of BHD would seriously decrease their passenger numbers and thus revenue, even if some passengers chose to fly from derry most probably wouldnt and would simply move to another carrier.

    derry airport’s a nightmare if you don’t drive, public transport links are atrocious (at least they were when i was last there)

    although if it’s a case where ryanair can make more money by using that plane somewhere else then i wouldn’t put anything past o’leary, only time will tell i suppose

  • Of course, Ryanair announced a three-month suspension of flights from Bournemouth airport between 1 November 2010 and 31 January 2011, citing the government’s £11 tourist tax.

    Different airport, different reason. Are the effects of the economic downturn being used to make a different political point in each region affected?

  • How can you think this is a bluff. IF its true that ryanair are making money with half empty flights I’d be much likely to believe O’Leary was throwing a strop and cutting off his nose to spite his face because he is fed up with the endless delays and can make more money flying FULL planes elsewhere.

    Besides this would be a shit issue to bluff. It would never work and he knows it. The government here has a track record of failing to take any tough decisions and will continue to do so. Much better to let the country crumble to bits.

  • Pigeon Toes
  • interested

    William
    I use Ryanair out of Dublin on regular basis-have always been on time and whilst destination airports are often “out of town” gets me there at a price I can afford-in my view has opened up Europe more effectively in the face of legislators whose role was that same opening.
    however the £25 parking charge for one day in the long stay car park at Belfast City last week is way way over the top!

  • sammymehaffey

    The winter months always show a down turn in domestic traffic. If the runway was lengthened Ryanair could fly to winter sun destinations during the winter. It is probably cheaper to park the aircraft rather than run half empty flights to east midlands and bristol etc.

  • I’ve just looked at their flights – the flights to-and-from London have been crossed out from mid-September onwards!

  • Pigeon Toes

    They’ve been doing it all over the place as this piece points out
    http://airobserver.wordpress.com/2010/03/08/ryanair-a-funny-company/

    “Ryanair is really one of the funniest companies to cover. When I started AirObserver, I had just planned to follow aviation in general and more precisely, the competition between low cost and legacy airlines. However, the more I looked into the inner working of this industry, the more I started to notice all of Ryanir’s contradictions, ambiguities and plain non-sense. Once more, I’d like to bring up a funny observation. Last October, I wrote an article entitled Ryanair pulls a fast one on Shannon Airport, in which I talked about Ryanair’s failure in honoring its contract with the SAA (Shannon Airport Authority) nor its responsibilities. Basically, Ryanair’s wasn’t able to bring in the number of passenger it had agreed on and instead, came up with a smart pretext to walk away from its responsibilities. The airline asked Shannon to reduce its airport fees, to increase its financial support, threatening to pull 75% of its routes out of Shannon, if the airport disagreed. (Sounds familiar to me: Angouleme, Alghero, Poitiers, and Granada Airport… !)
    So here we are, Shannon Airport couldn’t meet Ryanair demands and Ryanair slashed 75% of its traffic, before the end of its contract, which actually runs till next April.”

    Wouldn’t be surprised if there was a senior civil servant somewhere advising this course of action. Wouldn’t be the first time after all….

  • JAH

    Who’s going to miss them? As a pretty frequent flyer I only go with Ryanair if everyone else is booked and I really must travel. But otherwise I find the entire experience a yellow hued nightmare from beginning to end. Those poundshop interiors, the surly staff, the endless announcements for their ‘delicious’ coffee. Maybe a lot of other passengers are also going with anyone but O’Leary so that it is cutting his margins to ribbons. Plus if it encourages Flybe to up its flights, will anyone care?

    (And can someone somewhere tell me why so few people have read the passage in Mark Twain were the huckster persuades his mates to pay to whitewash his aunt’s wall. O’Leary actually charges people to stand for upwards of 20 minutes in a queue at City airport so they can fractionally enter the plane a few seconds before the rest! On the basis there’s always seats as you’ve checked in…)

    I’m going for a lie down..

  • William Markfelt

    Buget airlines run like clockwork. I’ve never been on one yet that was more than about five minutes taking off or landing. Reliable across the board.

    I just find Ryanair to be exploitative of everything, in a way that Stelios, or Jet2, or Flybe aren’t. And THEY land close to the cities the advertise as landing in, rather than some former Soviet airbase 40km outside the name on the ticket.

    It’s horses for courses. Sometimes you just identify and enjoy certain airlines and dislike others (KLM and Lufthansa are good, BA and Aer Lingus are OK, Ryanair and German Wings are utterly, utterly vile.

    Alan refers (above) to Ryanair pulling out of Bourenmouth in protest at a government’s £11 tax. It’s a bit rich for Michael Ryan to try that line. He needs to wind his neck in.

  • Cynic

    If there’s the demand someone will service it – probably Flybe and Easyjet.

    And the reason that Ryanair wants the extension? Haven’t they derated the power of the engines on their aircraft so they cant take off at Belfast with a full load without a longer runway? Easyjet and FlyBe manage just fine

  • Yes – the airport confirm that Ryanair passengers made up 31% of last year’s business.

  • It’s the distance. Domestic flights rarely take off with a full fuel tank as you’re just burning fuel to fly around lots of heavy fuel in your wings when you could instead quickly top up every couple of sectors if you’re not flying too far.

    But to go long distance without stopping to fill up, they need to fill up. Easyjet and bmi flights would have the same problem if they wanted to fly further afield than London.

  • Seniorhas

    Why won’t Ryanair fly out of Belfast International? The runway lengths there can accommodate jumbo jets. It’s not that too far out of the city compared with some of their destinations or are the International Airport fees not competitve.

    It would also mean that they could consolidate their operations and close their Derry operation. This would save the Derry ratepayers £1.5million per year and could put pressure on Road Services to improve the Derry to Belfast route. Kill two birds with one stone.

  • Pigeon Toes

    Cue politicians of various hues yamming on about the “blow” to the economy, and a call for all those nasty residents to stop whinging in a “now time to pull together… ensure no further loss to tourism etc and jobs as result”

    It’s soo obvious…

  • Pigeon Toes

    ” Michael Ryan” Who he? (don’t think he is in charge of an aeroplane company) 🙂

  • mike scott

    Bad news for the Airport this. And given the impending departure of CEO Brian Ambrose, this is news they could have done without. .

  • Pigeon Toes

    And as if by magic…

  • Peejay

    This is excellent news, our accountants can no longer force me to use their appalling service and listen to their interminable in-flight announcements, culminating in that d*mn fanfare. Its not hard to be punctual when the scheduled journey times are so ludicrously padded out.

  • JAH

    Why? There are other airlines. And plenty looking for new routes.

  • snowstorm

    Maybe because International Airport is a dump?

  • interested

    of course this begs the question about the sustainability of low cost air travel as fuel and environmental costs increase.
    what future for our island nation -oops -our offshore region of UK -as air travel costs rise and we search for our space in the new economic order!!!

  • William Markfelt

    Whoops.

    Michael O’Leary.

    I don’t think he’s in charge of a proper airline either.

  • Cynic

    I understand its not just the distance. Ryanair specify lower power engines to cut fuel usage but it makes the aircraft less flexible on shorter runways

  • Cynic

    No it dioesnt

  • Cheerio, Cheerio, Cheerioooooooooooooooo Mr O’Leary

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ive never actually flown by Ryanair.
    Im not a big fan of Michael O’Leary……except when hes fighting with people I dont like even more.
    Frankly not a big fan of the City airport either and for years I have had the awful feeling that theres an accident waiting to happen. …the planes seem very low when viewed from any high rise building in Belfast.
    To some extent Dawn Purvis is playing politics……Ryanair is a good (Irish) target and standing up for the “democratic rights of her constituents” wont cost her a vote.
    And of course if Ryanair backs down…that wont cost her a vote either.

  • Breezer

    So many people running down O’Leary. Simple answer, if you don’t want to fly with Ryanair, don’t! I fly with them because they have probably the newest fleet of aircraft operated by any airline in Europe – O’Leary bought 737s when Boeing couldn’t give them away, Ryanair’s mechanics – I’ve met a few over the years – are obsessive about safety and their fares are very competitive.
    To the chap commenting on the noise he hears in his garden in from aircraft taking off, don’t most aircraft take off from runway 22, rather than over Holywood? Does anyone have any data on this? I know the prevailing winds are mostly from the West. Perhaps if the runway was longer, aircraft taking off could do so at slightly lower power settings, reducing noise to below current levels. Perhaps someone with technical know-how might care to comment.
    I’m not surprised at the decision to postpone the runway extension and refer the matter to public enquiry, given the recently well publicised ineptitude of our local politicians and civil “servants”. Here’s a thought, why doesn’t PWC or Contracting Out establish a Decision Avoidance Consultancy? It could run the entire NI Public Sector.

  • Mick Fealty

    Well, normally they do. But not that day. And the wind was north easterly so it was blowing back onto the shore.

  • Mick Fealty

    It wasn’t me who put the complaint in, btw…

  • For the main London routes, I think you may find that EasyJet are at least maintaining their summer rotations to Luton. There seems to be a smugness in their comments to the media today. FlyBe (into Gatwick) and BMI (into Heathrow) continue to use Belfast City.

    Flybe are already close to duplicating some of the other Ryanair services:

    — into Glasgow (Ryanair does Prestwick, which is 20 miles further out-of-town),

    — into Manchester (shame about Liverpool, all of 30 miles away, but Manx do Blackpool).

    — At the expense of raising Dewi‘s ire, there’s Bristol 40 miles from Cardiff.

    Most of us have to travel to and from a hinterland anyway. Here in North London, I’m 35 miles from Stansted and Gatwick, 30 from Luton, going on 25 to Heathrow. So it’s swings-and-roundabouts, except I’ll go to trouble and expense to avoid the Ryanair cattle trucks.

    A cynical thought: surely, it’s barely a couple of months since the Dublin motorway went fully operational … Two hours by bus to Dublin Airport? Hmmm?

    And if snowstorm @ 5:30 pm thinks BIA is a “dump” (and he’s not far wrong), let him “enjoy” the Ryanair facilities at Dublin. Most of our local routes have some third-world stuff provision. But, then, in the liongo, we’re just the “self-loading freight”.

  • Pigeon Toes

    xwjd

  • “So many people running down O’Leary. Simple answer, if you don’t want to fly with Ryanair, don’t!”

    This assumes that the customers have a perfect knowledge of their options in the first place. Ryanair are quite adept at using the various cognitive biases that customers have to create a false impression that it’s the best deal on offer.

    I’ve flown to Belfast a lot from London over the last few years and got into the habit of using Ryanair under the impression that they were the cheapest. Because they’ve cancelled their flights, I’ve had to look at EasyJet today instead and found a few pleasant suprises.

    What I didn’t factor in was the degree to which Ryanair engineer the consumer experience in quite a cyncal way. When I thought that Ryanair were so cheap I hadn’t quite grasped the degree to which they were taking the p*** with their add-ons. So the advertised price is – aside from the card-processing fee – the price I actually pay! Who’d have thought that? On top of that, thorough some miracle, Easyjet can process my debit card for a lot less than Ryanair.

    There were lots of other pleasant surprises as well. Ryanair work on that marketing strategy that says ‘don’t make it easy for them – make them work for the great deal we’re offering’. So it’s a bloody awful website that isn’t usable – no ‘usability’ around printing of boarding passes, a generally clunky interface that takes ages to get through, and so on.

    I also wonder if EasyJet will insist that I’m standing in a queue for a full hour before the plane is due to leave?

    So I’ve got a flight cheaper than I would have expected from Ryanair and haven’t been routinely annoyed in the process. If the flight is more comfortable or the service is less f**k-you when I make the journey, that will be a further bonus.

    With a bit of luck, a different airline will pick up Ryanair’s slots and we’ll all be better off. If that makes travel to Belfast more enjoyable, then the NI economy will benefit as well. Win win all round!

  • sammymehaffey

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for any other airline to pick up the Ryanair routes in the winter

  • lamhdearg

    a fellow i work with is lost, he had flights book to london (daddy and son football) i do not think airlines should be able to do this, they should have to take all the people they have booked on there flight.

  • Breezer – just over 50% (between 53% and 55% in recent months) of flights take off or land over the Lough. BCA publish statistics on their website.

  • At the time they opened up in Belfast City, Ryanair had negotiated a better (ie, more discounted) landing charge than was possible up at Belfast International. This seemed to be part of the reason for easyJet dipping their toe in the Belfast City marketplace and running a Luton flight from there.

  • A.N.Other

    “From early in November, Ryanair will switch its one Belfast City based aircraft to another European airport, with the loss of 50 Ryanair jobs (all staff will be offered relocation elsewhere in the UK or Europe) and the loss of 1 million passengers annually, which will result in the loss of up to 1,000 support jobs in and around Belfast City Airport. Sadly passengers to/from all Belfast airports will now pay much higher fares to travel to/from the UK with other airlines.”

    Filed to the London Stock Exchange by Ryanair today.

  • snowstorm

    “And given the impending departure of CEO Brian Ambrose, this is news they could have done without”

    Hadn’t heard this?

  • What’s the colour of your elephants?

    In a way, Breezer @ 5:49 pm gave the “reason”.

    The Ryanair fleet is entirely 737-800s. That makes economic sense, having just one model to service and maintain.

    737-800s have a capacity, as Ryanair usually fly them, of 189 one-class seats. Fully laden, the 737-800 weighs 174,200lb. I’ve got in front of me the master planning document for Rhode Island Airport Corporation. This seems to show that a 737-800 requires a 7,200ft runway.

    The present runway at Belfast City is about 6,000 feet in length.

    That is why Ryanair’s flights are restricted to 140 seats. That is why Ryanair want the extra 600 metres (which would then be similar to the longer runway at Aldergrove.

    Usually the aircraft goes to and from the runway. What Ryanair seem to be asking is that the runway be brought to their aircraft.

    But, of course, at no significant cost to the airline. The cost would be to the owners (ABN AMRO is a partly-nationalized Dutch Bank), who would doubtless be expecting a hand-out from DRDNI (which means the tax-payer). Any loss of further amenity and domestic enjoyment falls on the local residents: Victoria Park gets it worst, Kinnegar, Inverary, Sydenham, Connswater and Ballymacarret not so far behind. We are talking about 160,000+ of the Belfast urban area being subject to significant noise pollution.

    For why? There is that perfectly good 9,000ft+ runway, considerably under-employed, a dozen miles out of the centre of town. Moreover, a direct rail link is there for the asking.

    As Clare Short said of the politicians of Montserrat, “they’ll be asking for golden elephants next.”

  • lamhdearg

    Malcolm.you forgot garnerville and ect. i use a airport quite a lot aldergrove will do me

  • The Raven

    Kinda does, what with oil production peaking around 2020, and them having not yet found a way of providing solar-powered aircraft and all. Of course, we only deplete our oil reserves at 2.1% per annum. It’s not like it’s a closed system or a finite supply or owt.

    Not to mention the taxes, the next four years of recovery, the increasing sh*tness of “holidays” in the sun, and so on.

  • Increasingly, I think it’s possible to see all politics as a process by which people who don’t pay taxes get the people who taxpayers pay to give them an even bigger slice of the pie.

    The US Red-States are notorious for being the biggest recipients of federal funds, ‘pushy parenting’ seems – at least in part – about getting a larger slice of education budgets focussed on their kids and the whole ‘corporate welfare’ that Ryanair seem to expect is just another taste of the same.

  • The Raven

    Oh and by the way, my own tuppence – as per further down, if you don’t like Ryanair, don’t use them. Frankly, I’d rather – and actually on one occasion did – travel by ground means.

  • Breezer

    I was merely commenting that people have a choice. What it comes down to is a simple matter of comparing the bottom line prices and not letting ourselves be unduly wound up at the not so subtle ways these “low-cost” operators employ to extract every last penny from the flying public. I don’t particularly like O’Leary but I have to hand it to him, he’s a shrewd businessman, and I’ll willingly even pay a premium to travel in one of Ryanair’s new 737 800’s rather than one of sleazyjet’s old bangers or God forbid, an airbus (a personal prejudice – I prefer cables to computers and wires)

  • I’ve used Ryanair for most of my recent flights, but booked a flight with BMIbaby yesterday. The total price – including airport taxes and everything else – was flashed up almost immediately upon deciding on flight times. After Ryanair’s horrific hidden cost website experiences, I was a little bit impressed.

    I despise O’Leary, but the fact that he kicked our politicians in the nuts over their inability to make decisions does amuse me.

  • Nunoftheabove

    O’Leary’s excellent at what he does, I admire his ability to keep a stright face a lot of the time if nothing else. He’d have made a hell of a barrister (head to head in court with Bob McCartney anyone ? Pure box office gold).

    I’d love to see his recommendations for the NI (or indeed free state) Civil Service if he was given a conflict-of-interest-free trouble-shooting brief for 3 months to blow some cobwebs away and eliminate waste.

  • aquifer

    It is hard to take an airport with one runway named for an alchoholic wife beater seriously.

    Build a fast train line all the way from dublin and take all the big flights to international.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Dublin airport’s an embarassment, a customer service nightmare and a total rip-off. It really ought to be renamed after someone appropriate. Ivor Callely, say (although local competition would be fierce altogether). In return for the few bob pension top-up, like – public money, natch.

  • Malcolm,

    > The cost would be to the owners (ABN AMRO is a partly-nationalized Dutch Bank), who would doubtless be expecting a hand-out from DRDNI (which means the tax-payer).

    Just to keep it factual, should not that Belfast City Airport are on record saying that they will privately fund the airport extension and are not seeking any public funding.

    Not sure there’s any momentum behind getting the rail link to Belfast International put in place.

  • Boglover

    Whatever O’Leary’s motives, there can be little doubt the Planning Service is woefully incompetent. For an insight, checkout the PAC website;
    Major Planning Applications
    George Best Belfast City Airport – runway extension proposal

    Since March 2010 the Commission has been corresponding with the Department about this major planning application. The Commission is unable to arrange the requested Public Inquiry as the information on 3rd party representations is incomplete and it has asked the Department to address the adequacy of the Environmental Information about the application. To date there has been substantial public interest in the correspondence between the Commission and the Department.

    In these circumstances the Commission has decided to publish this correspondence which may be viewed at http://www.pacni.gov.uk/letters.pdf. (659KB)

  • Alan in Belfast @ 6:55 am:

    Both fair points, which I fully accept.

    The pledge on costs was made under Ferrovial’s ownership, in the 2005 plan. It neatly side-stepped a whole raft of incidental costs: resiting the fuel farm, transport links, with a slick gloss on environment and security. As is said: that was then, this is now.

  • Yes – and building a second arrivals hall to deal with international customs etc – which couldn’t grow too much in the current shared hall. But at the community information day they were pretty clear about privately funding the airport developments.

  • GavBelfast

    O’Leary and his company treat their customers with contempt.

    Sod them.

  • slug

    Have never flown RyanAir.

    I prefer BMIBABY.

  • Salem

    Arlene was telling mistruths on Nolan – it was well know that O’Leary was threatening to pull out of the city airport. I know that a joe public, so i am supposed to believe that a minister for deti didnt know that.

    Come on – get real – people arent that stupid !

  • interested

    facinatinating to listen to Arlene Foster and Michael Colley of Ryanair this morning. Arlene kept on mentioning links with cities in UK whilst Colley was pushing the European links, his real need for the longer runway.

  • Gonzo,

    “I despise O’Leary, but the fact that he kicked our politicians in the nuts over their inability to make decisions does amuse me.”

    That’s a fair point. I don’t know whether Belfast City Airport’s delays are a result of taking a reasonable amount of time to negotiate with other stakeholders before reaching a conclusion (a good thing) or delays caused by the not-an-inch tradition of negotiation that seems more evident in NI than anywhere else (a bad thing).

    If it’s the latter, O’Leary has dished out the first of what will undoubtedly be a series of object lessons to the public administration of NI.

  • That should be of great and general interest.

    Wagging the dog?

    The Airport’s Master Plan is specific about that:

    Our primary market is the short haul scheduled services sector. This will remain the core of our aviation business throughout the period of the Plan.

    For a number of years we have operated a limited range of specialist charter services catering for golf and ski holidays to European destinations. While this currently accounts for less than 1% of total passenger throughput,research has indicated a market demand for increased charter opportunities from BCA. Our growth forecasts discussed later in the Plan are therefore, based on the assumption that the charter traffic will increase in the coming years.

    BCA is not and will not be targeting the long haul passenger markets, and will not be making infrastructure investment to facilitate this business or the handling of ‘wide bodied’ aircraft.

    Furthermore, on the same page 5, there’s a route map, showing services as far afield as … Jersey.

    The plan predates Ryanair coming into BCA/BHD: the detailed listing of aircraft movements (page 13) shows A320s, B737-400s, BAe146s and smaller equipment. No B737-800s (not surprisingly).

    It seems to me that Ryanair simply wanted to tear up the 2005 Master Plan, and demand something far, far bigger. At their own, knock-down price, of course.

    If Ryanair’s bluff has been called by the local citizenry getting restless, by the (deliberate?) inertia of bureaucracy, and by the changing economic environment, goody-goody say I.

    NI’s transport infrastructure must have more pressing demands than duplicating the underused Aldergrove runway.

    There is a real place for BCA/BHD in the executive and feeder-services markets. The rest should go in and out of Aldergrove.

  • interested

    depends on how you define short haul. Brussels, Amsterdam Frankfurt or even Paris are less than two hours-short haul in my book.
    However there is a bus service to Aldergrove and the new motorway makes Dublin, with all its faults, accessible.
    The coming economic climate is likely, in my view, to clip the demand for holiday traffic generally and straitened circumstances will require a more fundamental consideration of island transport infrastructure. (why does Aldergrove not attract more Dublin based users?)
    As well as maintaining our well established UK links, the European link is becoming increasingly important as a gateway to the global economy.
    Increasingly I meet local people who earn their living in Abu Dabi or Singapore

  • interested @ 3:27 pm:

    Again, fair points.

    I’m open to correction here: I thought “short-haul” amounted to 500 miles and about 2 hrs flight time. That gets us spot-on as far as Brussels. I think I’ve also seen definitions that suggest it amounts to being within the same state (which invites questions about the Belgian Euro-empire).

    Some Ryanair routes are four hours: from the UK that’s to Spain and Scandinavia. I’m told they’ve an even longer route from Charleroi to Larnaca due shortly: that must be over four hours.

    At some time/distance marker passenger comfort (not Ryanair’s first priority) ought to arise. Ouch! — I’ve done EasyJet to southern Europe; and that’s damned hard on the legs. Ryanair’s seat pitch is quoted as 30 inches: EasyJet and BMIbaby as 29. Monarch (which I’ve never used) is the regulation minimum of 28.

  • Blue arrow

    FR will not be missed…no idea about looking after people, advertising that barely tells the truth, and prices that tend to end up much higher than promised.

    As for the runway extension, there was never any justification for it…we’re a small country and one international length runway is more than enough.

    Some joined up thinking please!!

  • Local resident

    Good riddens Micheal, you had no thoughts for me or my neighbours so I will lose no sleep when your gone (actually that is true now I think of it) 🙂

    I live parallel to the flight path, a few hundred metres away. I have had to live with the noise of the Ryan Air planes for some time now and am totally against any expansion.

    Prior to Ryan Air arrival the FlyBe turbo props and whisper jets could be tolerated, but the 737s are extremely noisy on take off. If they are not full and they generate this amount of noise then surely if they are full and fully laden with fuel/baggage then it will take more power to get airborne which will mean even more noise.

    Imagine the carnage if one of these crashed coming in over or taking off over the city. I always think of the Concorde crash and wonder what would happen if one of these planes suffered something similar in the city area.

    There is a perfectly good INTERNATIONAL airport in a perfectly good setting at Aldergrove and given that most of Ryan Air’s arrivals in other cities are miles away, will it make that much differences to his passengers?

    If this has to be done for a high speed train link in England then why can we locals not get something similar for putting up with the noise and pollution generated by GBBCA?
    http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/domestic_politics/high+speed+rail+compensation+scheme+unveiled/3749482

  • > There is a perfectly good INTERNATIONAL airport in a perfectly good setting at Aldergrove …

    Perfectly good from a functional perspective (long runway, sparse population, etc), but not from a commercial point of view. Ryanair talked to both airports before opening their Belfast base, and BCA obviously gave them a much more discounted deal than BIA was willing to.

    So although the International is perfectly good, it wasn’t economically good.

    There’s been a long-offered argument that BIA and BCA should be jointly owned, which would be likely to mean that short haul small planes would use BCA and package holidays, jets etc would use BIA. But the removal of competition would probably also put up the prices of competitive routes to Birmingham etc.

  • Breezer

    Ryanair might well be missed by the 800,000 passengers that flew with them last year. Apart from that, you’re absolutely right. Actually, no, the 50 people who are going to lose their jobs might miss Ryanair too. And the businesses that benefited from the tourist trade generated by people who came to Northern Ireland on Ryanair flights. But yes, apart from that handful of people……

    What did the Roman’s ever do for us!!!!

  • Vincent M

    I moved to London a couple of years ago and regularly fly to Belfast a couple of times a month to see family. The sudden departure of Ryanair has caused a lot of difficulty for my schedule. Luckily I had already booked my Christmas flights with an alternative airline (not easyjet) as the cost to do so now would have been prohibitive.

    Yes, they were a cheap airline. I did fly for a penny a few times and normally my return flights were about 20 quid (hand luggage only, paid with visa electron and later mastercard prepaid card). However, the passenger experience was extremely unpleasant and the flight attendants could be extremely abusive.

    A lot of people say if you don’t like ryanair then fly with other airlines. Unfortunately, other routes tend not to be as convenient, a return fare commonly does not leave you with much change out of a hundred quid and as for easyjet they do have a serious problem with punctuality. Frankly for those of us who aren’t millionaires there really isn’t much of an alternative to ryanair.

    I think it a disgrace that Ryanair can pull such well established routes at literally 8 weeks notice when it takes about 6 months to establish a new air route – so there will be no instant competitors waiting in the wings.

    Clearly they have demonstrated that they cannot be relied upon to provide an established service across the water – something which NI really badly needs. Regarding the comments about Ryanir not having full planes to the city because of safety rules – quite often the Stansted plane was completely full – every seat occupied. Was there some sort of safety risk here – did Ryanair cut corners?

    Despite their cheap fares I think Belfast City Airport should not allow Ryanair to return and instead try to court those airlines who can provide a steady, reliable and affordable service and are unlikely to pull planes on a whim leading immediately to a 30% reduction in the airport’s capacity. Clearly getting into bed with ryanair was a bad move for the city airport as they now have lost almost immediately a third of business with no warning from the Ryanair thugs in suits.

  • Daniel

    Endless posters suggesting that Ryanair should have gone to Aldergrove – are they serious. If easyjet even got a whiff of such a suggestion Stellios would be over to beat them up in a big way. The situation could be compared to a new shoppping centre.Imagine that you own a new prestigious shopping centre and secure Debenams as the largest anchor tenant. After they are set up and trading you announce an extension which will house John Lewis. i think that Mr Debenham would not be impressed.

    Michael O’Leary is in business to make money (much to the amazement of our politicians who state this in an incredulous manner as if all other businesses are run for altruistic reasons). He cannot be blamed for packing up and moving somewhere where his aircraft will be more profitable.

    As noted the airport had a community day which was attended by 46 persons. I am told that only 3 of these were objectors out of 21,000 invites. Is noise really such a problem for East Belfast?

  • george

    would love to see flights between london city and belfast city…

  • JAH

    Why is anyone taking O’Leary’s figures as gospel. The man has a tangential relationship with reality and I’d love to know how many people DanDare actually physically employs (other than sub contracts) if there is any independent verification of their claim to shift half the population each year and the knock on effect for jobs. I’d trust the figures as much as I trust the prices they quote.

    Plus if you sup with the devil…

  • If I’m one of those “endless posters”, Daniel @ 1:07 am is wrong to read that I’m saying Ryanair should have gone to Aldergrove.

    I’m all in favour of suitable aircraft using BHD. Ryanair’s 737-800 is not capable of or licensed for fully-laden take-offs from a 6,000 foot runway.

    Furthermore, Stelios’ dealings with easyJet are only through his lawyers and his royalties: the name is now a licensing deal.

  • Daniel

    I’m all in favour of suitable aircraft using BHD. Ryanair’s 737-800 is not capable of or licensed for fully-laden take-offs from a 6,000 foot runway. – which is why they want to extend it!

    Furthermore, Stelios’ dealings with easyJet are only through his lawyers and his royalties: the name is now a licensing deal. – fair point – forgot – although was referring more to the company than the infividual.

    Above references to Master Plan are spurious. As quoted ‘primary market will be domestic flights’. This would not change – BCA propose in ES a max of 10 European destinations twice a week – so 40 movements out of a weekly total of almost 1000. Still very much in the minority in my opinion.

  • Daniel

    Has been tried – laterly by Citijet in 2008 – just couldnt get the loads.

  • Daniel

    According to CAA they carried in region of 800,000 pax in and out of BHD last year.

  • The restrictions at LCY are (and need to be) very strict: the flightpath is effectively between tower blocks). It is designated as a STOLport, with a 5,000 foot runway and a steep glidepath.

    That means the biggest aircraft from LCY are in the 100-seater range. BAe146s and the like are being supplanted by types such as Embraer E190s (as ordered by BA as 98 seaters) and A318s (BA fly these from LCY to JFK twice a day, in 32-executive-seat mode: single fare a spot shy of £3500).

    Quite why there isn’t a LCY-BHD service is anyone’s guess, but cost must be an obvious reason. Air France did operate that route until May 2008. It’s still bookable, but routed through Dublin, with a ridiculously long 5½hr scheduled time (and around £230-250 single).

    With Ryanair out of the picture, might you expect a CityJet flight coming your way shortly? CityJet are a subsidiary of Air France/KLM (and sponsors of London Irish). Their fares are not Ryanair or easyJet, but also transparent and not totally off the scale: LCY to Dundee for about £70 single.

  • Flybe also used to do a Belfast City / London City / Isle of Man triangle service. Was a long bumpy way of getting to London City – but used it a few times for London meetings that I could get to directly from Docklands Light Railway. You could check in on the train platform and then walk be through security within a few minutes.

  • Fit the airfield to the aircraft? Are you sure that’s the right way round? Taken to extremes, we demolish East Belfast to facilitate A380s and 747s.

    [Hang on! Hang on! Demolish East Belfast? Perhaps you have a point after all.]

  • Vincent M

    Malcolm says “Ryanair’s 737-800 is not capable of or licensed for fully-laden take-offs from a 6,000 foot runway.”

    I think I may have spotted a loophole that Mr O’Leary exploited. Yes, I’ve never been on a plane from BD that was completely full (usually a couple of rows vacant – and partitioned off by the zelous flight attendants) but there have been numerous occasions coming from Stansted and landing in BD where the plane was completely full – every single seat occupied. Presumably you can’t take off with a full plane but you can land one.

    Admittedly some of the landings were quite rough and you heard the wheels squeal as the pilot slammed the brakes on hard. I’m nearly certain that one time we were almost at the edge of the runway by the time the plane came to a complete halt.

    Also, regarding other airlines not finding BD-London routes profitable – charge the right price and you’ll fill the planes (no matter how shoddy the service a la O’leary) – charge in excess of a hundred pounds and you’ll only get business class not the mass market where the real profit comes from.

  • Daniel

    Vincent
    The B737-800’s that Ryanir use were unrestricted (load wise) on take off (to UK destinations – i.e. not full of fuel) but were restricted to 170 passengers on landing due to the brake configuration that the aircraft have.

  • M

    I am!

    As a frequent flyer (weekly) for the past 6 years, I would pick Ryanair everytime! Easyjet couldn’t have more delayed aircraft if they tried. Flybe charge £49.00 in taxes.. that’s before you add the cost of the flight and bmibaby will one day learn that allocating seats is great if you board your aircraft in seat row order!

    Ryanair offer a punctual, low-cost option for those people who are less affected by the interior decor of the aircraft and are just happy to arrive on time at their destination, having paid less (on average) less than £20.00 to get there.