Belfast international airport today declared its support for expansion at Gatwick over Heathrow.
This came as the chairman of the West Sussex airport lobbied Northern Irish business leaders and politicians in Belfast.
A week after making Gatwick’s case to the prime minister, Sir Roy McNulty has written to the leaders of Northern Ireland’s political parties in Westminster.
He outlined a set of commitments designed to support Northern Ireland’s connections to London in the future, if local MPs support a second runway at Gatwick.
They include guarantees on:
• Delivery of new capacity by 2025
• Passenger charges capped at £15
• Protection of slots for regional services
• A dedicated fund to support connectivity to Northern Ireland
• Appointment of a role whose sole task would be supporting services to/from the regions.
Sir Roy also told Northern Irish business leaders that expanding Gatwick was the best way to help secure regular and sustainable access to London, providing cheaper fares for travellers who would avoid the inflated charges that would be needed to fund Heathrow.
Gatwick already serves more UK airports than any other London airport, including 58 flights a week to Belfast, and is committed to growing that network.
At the same time, expanding Gatwick would deliver the capacity required in the London network more quickly without stifling the future growth of direct international flights for both Belfast airports.
The airport’s vision for a network of competing airports each serving their local communities with direct connections to important markets is the best way to secure long-term economic growth for Northern Ireland.
Heathrow’s proposal would make Belfast forever a branch-line of a market-dominant airport in west London, the Gatwick chief claimed.
Belfast international airport managing director Graham Keddie, said: “With easyJet and Ryanair now offering frequent and affordable flights from Belfast international, Gatwick has rapidly become the pre-eminent gateway from Belfast into London.
“Gatwick expansion is a win-win for Northern Ireland, securing the long-term future of our flights to London, while allowing us to focus on building a greater network of direct routes from Belfast International to the rest of the world.”
Sir Roy said: “Gatwick believes the people of Northern Ireland deserve to hear the facts about expansion and that’s why we’ve laid out a series of achievable and practical commitments that will be of significant benefit to the aviation sector here.
“A network of competing airports throughout the UK is the best way to secure low fares and connections to London – encouraging the economic benefits of direct flights to be spread around the country, rather than concentrating them through west London.
“Gatwick’s expansion plan are cheaper, faster, 100% privately funded, and simpler to deliver -meaning Northern Ireland passengers can benefit from enhanced and cheaper connections to the capital by 2025.”