easyJet Adds Bordeaux and Jersey in Belfast 15th Anniversary Celebration

easyJet has this week celebrated its 15th anniversary at Belfast International Airport by announcing two new routes and staging a water arch salute for arriving aircraft. Since introducing their first flight to London Luton 15 years ago easyJet has flown over 32 million passengers to and from Belfast and is now Northern Ireland’s largest airline operator.

At a special event to mark the milestone on September 9, 2013, easyJet held a celebration at the airport with 15 themed cakes and Bordeaux wine, partly to also mark the addition of Bordeaux in south west France and Jersey in the Channel Islands to its network from Belfast International Airport from summer 2014. The airline has not yet formalised its planned schedules for these two new routes but confirmed seats will go on sale from next month. However, it was not all good news in the Northern Irish capital as it emerged the carrier is to end its existing link to London Southend from January 6, 2014.

“We’re pleased to mark this important anniversary for easyJet by announcing two new routes for Northern Ireland,” said Ali Gayward, easyJet’s Head of Northern Ireland during the event. “Since we launched our first flight to Belfast in 1998 over 32 million people have chosen to fly with us. Belfast was one of our first bases outside Luton and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries here.”

easyJet currently has six aircraft based permanently at Belfast International Airport and employs over 200 crew and pilots at the airport, handling over three million people a year. “Since their first flight from Belfast International Airport in 1998, easyJet have grown rapidly and now carry more passengers into and out of Northern Ireland than any other airline,” said John Doran, managing director, Belfast International Airport.

According to Doran, the airline’s success has come from its business model of providing low fares to the destinations to which both business and leisure passengers want to travel. “It was not uncommon in the mid-nineties to be charged fares of over £300 to travel between Northern Ireland and significant UK cities such as Edinburgh, Liverpool and Bristol. easyJet singularly changed all of that, as well as adding direct access to European cities from Belfast, and for that alone the Northern Ireland public owe them a huge debt of gratitude,” he added.

easyJet first launched flights to Belfast in September 1998 when it linked it to its home base at London Luton Airport. A new link to Liverpool was introduced in July 1999 and flights were increased between Northern Ireland and England from October 2000. New services to Glasgow and Edinburgh were introduced in October 2001 and a formal base was opened in October 2002.

The opening of the base supported further network growth from the airport with flights to London Gatwick and Newcastle being introduced in February 2003 and a significant international growth including routes to Paris and destinations in Portugal and Spain from June 2004. The base was expanded to six aircraft in November 2007 facilitating the launch of another five new routes and recent network additions have included Manchester (from October 2011) and Birmingham (from October 2012).

Although Bordeaux is a new non-stop market from Belfast, Jersey is already served on a seasonal basis by Jet2.com from Belfast International and Flybe from Belfast City. Neither of these two routes is currently loaded for summer 2014 operation. According to UK CAA data just over 11,000 passengers flew between Belfast and Jersey in 2012 with 9,267 using the services from Belfast International and 1,985 the flights from Belfast City.

During the time easyJet has been serving the Northern Ireland market there has been a rise in visitor spend in Belfast, as the city has become better connected. Its tourism offering has been transformed during this period to support this and it is now established as a modern, vibrant city with unrivalled world class attractions and events and annual visitor numbers have increased from around 1.5 million in 1999 to more than 7.5 million today.

“In continually investing in its services from Belfast International Airport, easyJet has played a pivotal role in assisting us in our strategic efforts to drive this tourism growth over this period and I would like to pay tribute to its longstanding commitment to Belfast and for its contribution to the city’s tourism success,” said Gerry Lennon, chief executive officer, Visit Belfast.

Official figures from the development agency show that the 1.5 million visitor arrivals in 1999 generated around £114 million in spend, a figure that almost doubled at the peak of demand when 9.3 million arrival in 2009 spent an estimated £451 million. Arrivals numbers have declined in each of the subsequent years and although spend fell notably in 2010 it has subsequently grown again in 2011 and 2012 as those that do visit Belfast spend a little more than previous visitors.

In our analysis of schedule data from information provider OAG we look at overall seat capacity from Belfast’s two airports – International and George Best City – during the past two years. Capacity has declined 1.7 per cent between 2011 and 2012, due mainly to the departure of bmibaby from the Belfast market. bmi British Midland also left the Belfast market after being acquired by British Airways, albeit the latter has continued to maintain its capacity since the takeover. In the past year easyJet has boosted its own seat capacity by 5.7 per cent and increased its share of the Belfast market from 48.0 per cent in 2012 to 51.4 per cent this year.

SCHEDULED AIR CAPACITY FROM BELFAST AIRPORTS (non-stop departures from Belfast International and George Best Belfast City airports)



Seat Capacity (2013)

% Share (2013)

% Change (2012)


easyJet (U2)


51.4 %

5.7 %


Flybe (BE)


26.0 %

1.5 %


Aer Lingus (EI)


8.1 %

3.2 %


British Airways (BA)


6.5 %

93.5 %


Jet2.com (LS)


3.2 %

(-7.0) %




(-1.3) %

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…