Ryanair boss blames delays over Belfast airport pull-out

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary today blamed government delays over approving a controversial runway extension for his decision to pull out of George Best Belfast City Airport.





The outspoken budget airline chief executive launched a blistering attack on the Stormont authorities as he announced that Ryanair would stop using the airport from October 31.



While the 50 Ryanair staff working on the Belfast routes will be offered redeployment opportunities, Mr O'Leary claimed the move would cost 1,000 other jobs that rely on the operator's presence in the city.



His decision comes after a planning application lodged two years ago to extend the runway by around 600 metres (1,968ft), thus opening it up to further afield destinations, was referred to public inquiry by the Stormont government.



"If Belfast doesn't want (it) and the authorities up here don't recognise that Ryanair wants to invest in Belfast, wants to invest in Northern Ireland tourism, but we're not going to beat our head against the bloody wall for more than three years to do it, then to hell with you," said Mr O'Leary.



In a typical colourful press conference in Belfast, the straight-talking entrepreneur said he would be prepared to come back to the airport if the runway was approved.



"I'm now saying we're going to go, we're taking the plane, you'll lose the passengers, you'll lose the jobs, but we'll come back if somebody at some point in time up here makes a f****** decision and delivers us a very small, very modest runway extension to allow us to do nothing other than fly safely from Belfast City to continental Europe," he said.



In the interim, Ryanair flights between Belfast and London Stansted, Liverpool, East Midlands, Bristol and Glasgow Prestwick airports will be withdrawn at the end of October. Passengers who have already booked can apply for a refund.



The airline first set up at the airport in late 2007, operating a number of domestic flights with reduced passenger restrictions while preparing to launch a series of European routes confident that the extension would be granted.



But the proposal was met with fierce opposition by some local residents, who claimed noise levels would soar if planes with heavier payloads were allowed to use the airport.



In the face of competing claims, in March this year Stormont Environment minister Edwin Poots referred the matter to the Planning Appeals Commission to conduct a public inquiry. But while the independent probe was due to be undertaken by the end of this year it has been hit by a number of delays and has not yet started.



Mr O'Leary said he regarded the Belfast operation as a success and that a million passengers were now using it annually.



He stressed he was not opposed to the principle of a public inquiry, just the delay in getting a decision.



"We fully recognise that Northern Ireland is a democracy," he said.



"We also recognise the right of people to go to public inquiry but I resent the fact that it takes three years to get there, and even when it goes to public inquiry then the public inquiry is going to be further delayed."



The Ryanair plane based in Belfast will now be moved to Spain or Italy.



George Best Belfast City Airport Business Development director Katy Best said she was disappointed at Ryanair's decision.



"However, passenger figures had proved that there was significant demand for the routes operated by Ryanair and I am confident that we can attract other airlines to fill the void," she said.



Minister Poots also expressed disappointment with the news.



"There has been an economic downturn and as a consequence airline companies are cutting their cloth," he said.



"Northern Ireland unfortunately has failed to meet requirements for Ryanair."



While the minister suggested the airline could have operated European flights from Belfast International Airport, Mr O'Leary ruled out any move to the facility at Aldergrove, declaring he was not interested.



Liz Fawcett, spokeswoman for Belfast City Airport Watch, a residents' group opposed to the runway extension, welcomed the move but expressed concern another operator would take Ryanair's place.



"Ryanair thought it could come in and dictate airport policy in Northern Ireland, and we're really glad they've discovered they can't," she said.



"But, while we welcome the move, the City Airport will now be busy enticing airlines such as easyJet to bring more routes to the airport, so any respite from noise for residents is likely to be short-lived."



But retailers said the pull out was not good news for the region.



Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said: "This is very bad news for both Belfast City Airport and the local economy as a whole.



"Many visitors from the five Ryanair UK routes shopped in Belfast City Centre and other towns and cities throughout Northern Ireland.



"Struggling retailers will be disappointed that the loss of these routes will mean fewer customers from other parts of the UK.



"Air routes such as these are absolutely vital for Northern Ireland developing its tourist potential and as a location for major UK conferences. We simply cannot afford to lose them."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

    In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
    Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

    A writer spends a night on the streets

    Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
    Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    UK's railways are entering a new golden age

    New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
    Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

    Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

    Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
    Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

    Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

    This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
    Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

    Why did we stop eating whelks?

    Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
    10 best women's sunglasses

    In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

    From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

    No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

    18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

    Richard III review

    Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice