Friday, October 17, 2008

Some (more) movement at Belfast City Airport … and some questions.

In an announcement* that’s been long expected, the Department of the Environment have increased the permissible capacity of the recently sold Belfast City Airport.

  • The maximum number of flights is up 3,000 to 48,000 per year, but now includes previously non-counted flights (private jets and non-commercial aircraft).
  • The “seats for sale” limit has been increased by a third up to 2 million passengers. Clarification at 5.30pm - that's seats on sale for 2 million passengers flying out from Belfast City, with another 2 million passengers assumed to be flying back.

The airport’s public figures for flight movements show 41,893 in 2007, well under the limit (assuming there are small numbers of non-commercial flights).

However, the passenger volumes look to be in breach of the current and new target of seats for sale, with 2.1 million passengers in 2006, 2.2 million in 2007, and 1.9 million already in 2008. Will ping an email to the airport to see if there’s a rational explanation. Clarification at 5.30pm - so with a current "seats for sale" of 1.5 million in plus out, that's a current target of 3 million passengers - which this year's projections fall safely below. Next year's maximum would be 4 million (2 million in, 2 million out).

Belfast City Airport's graph of passenger volumes for 2006, 2007 and 2008 (to date) - graph copied on 17 Oct 2008

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson explained:

“The modified Planning Agreement represents the outcome of a lengthy, open and transparent review including consultation with Belfast City Council and North Down Borough Council plus the Airport Forum which includes representatives of the local residents’ groups.

Careful consideration has been given to all representations that have been made and I am satisfied that the modified agreement represents a balance between the concerns of the local residents and the economic benefits generated by the airport.”

*No official press release published yet on the Department of the Environment website. Update Tuesday 21 October - a press release backdated to 17 October has today finally been posted on the DOE section of the Northern Ireland Executive news release website.

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