DALLAS – British Airways (BA) will ramp up operations at Belfast City Airport (BHD) at the end of October to compensate for Aer Lingus (EI) discontinuing service between BHD and LHR.
The Irish carrier was forced to discontinue services at the end of the month. According to Fórsa, the Dublin-based trade union, the forced withdrawal was a result of Brexit.
Under the post-Brexit Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and UK, EU airlines ( for example Aer Lingus) are permitted to conduct services on domestic routes in the UK. However, EI was operating this route for the past two years under a ‘wet leasing’ agreement that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) described as a temporary measure set to now expire at the end of October.
The post-Brexit rules state that airlines must register UK entities, secure a UK air operator certificate (AOC), and use UK-registered aircraft. For example, Irish LLC Ryanair (FR) was faced with a similar dilemma, which resulted in the airline creating Ryanair UK in June 2021, and FR now operates under a UK AOC.
This also ensures that FR will be permitted to conduct service to Britain when it returns to Belfast International Airport in April 2023.
Passengers who had booked the EI flight to LHR will not be greatly disturbed by the new development. They were instructed to turn up for flights as usual but to expect a BA aircraft to get them to LHR. In fact, Aer Lingus stated that flights can still be booked on their website (EI and BA are both owned by the same company, IAG).
Over the years, both carriers had a market share on this route, and they operated flights on a shared basis. As for the 30 EI cabin crew directly impacted by route restructuring, they will be redeployed.
The Irish airline said in a statement that: “We are engaging with the relevant authorities in order to allow us to continue to serve this route into the future.” EI also said that it is “very keen” on continuing the BHD-LHR route, but there is no strong indication that the carrier will adopt Ryanair’s (FR) approach soon.
The dilemma has created a fallout between Gordon Lyons’ Department for the Economy (DfE) and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) over their communications. Dfe said in a statement to Irish News that the DUP minister had arranged an urgent meeting with NIO minister Steve Baker and airport executives when notified of the issue in September
However, a DfE spokesperson said, “At this meeting, a number of possible solutions were presented to the NIO that would secure this vital service, it is therefore disappointing that despite repeated contact from the department to the NIO, no response has yet been received.”
An NIO spokesperson said, “NIO ministers and officials regularly engage with Northern Ireland ministers and departments, as well as the Department of Transport, to ensure Northern Ireland’s air connectivity is maintained.”
The NIO spokesperson added, “The spikes person added that connectivity between Northern Ireland and Great Britain was currently very strong with flights largely recovering to 2019 pre-pandemic levels, with a number of competing services between Belfast and London airports in response to the Dfe statements.”
Aer Lingus has been operating this route since 2007.
Featured image: Aer Lingus’ inaugural flight, EI 31, from Manchester non-stop to Barbados launches on 20th October. The service marks the start of Aer Lingus UK services from Manchester. Aer Lingus recently launched new transatlantic routes from Manchester to the US (New York and Orlando) and the Caribbean. Aer Lingus’ inaugural flight, EI 31, from Manchester non-stop to Barbados launches on 20th October. The service marks the start of Aer Lingus UK services from Manchester. Aer Lingus recently launched new transatlantic routes from Manchester to the US (New York and Orlando) and the Caribbean. A aer Lingus UK A330-300 G-EILA AT Manchester airport MAN. Photo: Daniel Crawford/Airways