Airline quits Belfast City

IRISH budget carrier Ryanair yesterday closed its Belfast City Airport base after saying delays to a new runway had stopped it launching new routes.

Dublin-based Ryanair said it was ceasing services to London and four other services to the UK from the Northern Ireland airport, switching its one Belfast City-based aircraft to another airport and axeing 50 jobs.

Ryanair, which only runs five routes to the UK because of the short runway at Belfast City, had planned to launch more routes from the airport to European destinations if the runway extension had gone ahead.

But it decided to pull out after an inquiry into the runway, initially due to open in 2008, was further delayed.

Ryanair, due to report half year results today, said the delay meant the extension may not open until 2012. The end of its services may reduce passengers by 1m a year, but it may return if the extension is built.

Chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “It makes no sense for Ryanair to continue to invest in Belfast City, operating restricted routes with less than full payloads.”