BA relaunches Belfast-London flights
British Airways has relaunched services between Northern Ireland and London Heathrow after an 11-year gap.
BA took over the route from BMI following the acquisition of its competitor recently. The deal increased BA's owners the International Airline Group's (IAG) control of landing slots at Heathrow.
The service between George Best Belfast City Airport and Heathrow is a staple for Northern Ireland businesses and a hub for worldwide travellers.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said: "I am delighted today to see the British Airways colours back in Belfast.
"I publicly committed to serving Belfast if we acquired additional runway slots at Heathrow and the acquisition of BMI has given us the perfect opportunity to make that happen."
He said the airline recognised the importance of the Heathrow link to the Northern Ireland economy.
"Belfast is now part of our global network so this is good news for the economy," Mr Walsh added.
"It will provide much needed access to key global markets, supporting more inward investment and jobs."
BA is maintaining the summer schedule of the service, six daily return flights, but will increase frequency during its winter schedule from October, adding an additional daily flight.
Owen Paterson, Northern Ireland Secretary, said: "A frequent, reliable air link between Belfast and Heathrow is essential for the Northern Ireland business community to increase trade and investment and for the tourist industry to welcome the many visitors who are discovering that Northern Ireland is the new must see destination."
Stormont Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said it was great news.
"British Airways' return to the City Airport after more than 10 years will further strengthen this link and deliver greater access for tourists and business travellers alike," she said.
Mr Walsh said he was committed to Belfast.
"It is guaranteed for as long as it is a success," he said.
"We will provide a service and we hope the service will be one our customers here in Northern Ireland want."
He said it was a great opportunity to put Northern Ireland on the global stage.
"The economic desire to grow Northern Ireland is absolutely in line with our desire to see more people flying," he added.
"Our interests are completely aligned, as long as this route succeeds we will be here, it is all to play for."
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