Belfast Airport named one of the best in the country for helping disabled passengers.

Belfast International Airport is one of three in Northern Ireland to have been highly praised for it’s ‘excellent’ care given to those with a disability.

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The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gave recognition to Belfast International, Belfast City and City of Derry Airports as well as ranking them all within the top 10 of the whole of the UK for their services to the disabled.

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115 new jobs opened at Belfast International Airport

115 new jobs opened at Belfast International Airport

Good news for the residents surrounding the airport; of the 298 new jobs being opened at Belfast International Airport, 115 of these will be full time positions courtesy of 6 businesses operating at the airport itself. This is the 3rd major job implementation announcement for the airport which will push £1.5 million worth of wages into the Northern Ireland economy. The new positions stretch across a large variety of aviation positions, taxi operations, on-site food outlets, and private charter services.

Some of the businesses currently recruiting include; Belfast Airport Taxis, who work under the official airport itself, who are looking to take on 30 additional drivers to cater for higher expected passenger numbers. Logistics, retail and catering specialists LSG have created 16 places to fill while Jet Assists and Car Care will open a further 9 roles between them A further benefit is that none of the jobs opened as part of this scheme will come at a cost to the government job creation or taxpayer.

Brian Carlin, Belfast International Airport’s Director of Commercial Development said – “These jobs have little or no lead-in times. There’s a need for them now as we prepare for a bumper year with hundreds of thousands more passengers.”

“We’ve announced almost 300 new jobs over a nine-week period and that’s the equivalent of a major overseas inward investment costing millions of pounds. In a real sense, we’re growing the business without reliance on the public purse.

If you are interested in any of the positions mentioned or would like to simply see the full ranges of positions available, they will be showcasing at the Templeton Hotel, Templepatrick, Monday 8 February.

Want to keep up to date with all of the Belfast International Airport information? Follow @Airport_Guides on Twitter and on Facebook for all the news you need to see.


easyJet introduces new routes from Belfast International

It is now 15 years since easyJet started operating flights out of Belfast International Airport and, to celebrate, the budget airline has announced two new routes to the Channel Islands and south-west France.

easyJet’s first route from Belfast was to Luton and it changed the face of air travel for many living in Northern Ireland. Prior to the arrival of easyJet in Belfast, people had to pay fares of around £300 to fly to mainland Britain. Since then the carrier has flown over 32 million people to and from Belfast, making it the most popular airline for travellers to and from the area. easyJet currently employs more than 200 people at Belfast International to crew and fly the 6 aircraft that operate out of the airport.

Indicative prices are currently unavailable for either of the new routes as tickets do not go on sale until next month and the routes themselves do not operate until the spring of 2014. However, residents of Northern Ireland looking for a holiday in Jersey, the British island which can often feel more like France than Britain, or in the interesting wine-growing area around Bordeaux have much to celebrate.

A survey carried out by Which? Travel magazine recently revealed that passengers prefer small regional airports so Jersey in particular should prove user-friendly, with only 1.5 million passengers using it in 2012. To put this into context, London Gatwick handled 34.2 million passengers in the same period. Bordeaux, despite being France’s sixth busiest airport, saw only 4.3 million passengers in 2012.


Jet2 to fly to the Algarve

Flights to Faro in the Algarve region of Portugal, and to Dubrovnik, Croatia, are now on sale at Belfast International Airport. The two routes, operated by budget airline, Jet2, will take off in summer 2012.

Self-proclaimed “leading leisure airline”, Jet2, will fly to Faro every Saturday from May next year. Tickets for the flight begin at £39.99 for a one-way journey, taxes included. “We are delighted to announce the launch of this new route from Belfast”, explained Ian Doubtfire, managing director for the Leeds-based carrier. “The new flights to the Algarve perfectly complement the existing destinations on offer (from Belfast).”

Jet2 offers routes from Ireland to ‘sun and sea’ spots in Spain and the Mediterranean, namely, Alicante and Murcia, and the three Balearic Islands, Majorca, Menorca, and Ibiza. Faro is the airline’s 13th destination from Belfast International.

Faro, located near the Ria Formosa National Park, is arguably, one of the most popular holiday destinations available from airports in the UK. The city enjoys clement temperatures all year round, and is notable for its ‘island beaches’, some of which are only accessible via boat. The beaches are, in fact, sand-spits that have formed around the Ria Formosa lagoon.

Dubrovnik, the second of Jet2’s new routes, is a port city on the coastline of the Adriatic Sea. The destination is a World Heritage Site, and as such, is wealthy in historic architecture. The Walls of Dubrovnik, for example, have stood since the 7th century, and remain in almost perfect condition. Also of note, the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, which lasts for 45 days, begins on 10 July every year. The event is a celebration of the arts, featuring live music, dance acts, and theatre.

Jet2’s sister company, Jet2Holidays, is offering package deals for Faro and Dubrovnik, beginning at £299 for the Algarve resort, and from around £355 per person for the Croatian city.


Flybe offers 40kg allowance to students

From this month, Flybe will allow valid student card holders to carry up to 40kg (or two bags at the maximum weight allowed) on flights to and from a number of ‘off-shore’ destinations. The offer essentially affords young people twice the usual baggage allowance, at no additional cost.

People who choose to go to university in 2011 may find that the experience steals more money from their pockets than they had anticipated. While George Osborne’s tripling of tuition fees won’t come into play until 2012/13, the cost of higher education can still tear the hind legs from your piggy bank, reaching £3,375 for the 2011/12 academic year.

“We recognise that students are facing escalating costs”, explained Mike Rutter, commercial chief at Flybe. “(We) also appreciate the additional travel costs incurred by those living off the UK mainland.” Mr. Rutter says that students travelling from the Isle of Man, Jersey, Guernsey, and Northern Ireland, are eligible for the ‘buy one, get one free’ baggage deal.

Students who wish to participate in the promotion should purchase allowance for a single bag when booking their flight, then, simply turn up at their chosen airport with a student card and the additional luggage item. The bonus allowance will be granted at the check-in desk. Flybe does not indicate which student cards are accepted, but the offer (presumably) extends to holders of NUS or standard university membership cards.

Flybe, compared to Ryanair and easyJet, at least, has a rather eccentric route list, which favours British territories over ‘sun and sea’ spots on the continent.

Routes to the Channel Islands, the Shetlands, the Hebrides, and to smaller mainland airports, such as Norwich, make up many of the 40 domestic routes on Flybe’s schedules. It should come as no surprise then that Mike Rutter referred to Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, and Northern Ireland as “key” destinations for the airline. Flybe is ostensibly trying to bolster the appeal of the four routes, by reducing the overall cost of air travel.


Luton flight returns to Aldergrove

At the beginning of 2010, a route from Belfast International (Aldergrove) to London Luton Airport was cancelled, following operator, easyJet’s, assumption that Irish travellers would prefer to fly to George Best Airport, otherwise known as Belfast City.

The reasoning behind the transfer was sound (City is much closer to the centre of Belfast), but the move made little sense from a financial point of view. EasyJet was supporting two bases within 20 miles of each other, one of which, Belfast City, had just one route on its schedules, namely the twice-daily service to Bedfordshire’s Luton Airport.

Almost eighteen months later, easyJet has abandoned the convenience of flights to City, for the security of its much larger base at Aldergrove. "Our other routes operate from Belfast International. We are now consolidating our overall operation by reinstating our Luton flights from there as well", explained Ali Gayward, commercial manager at easyJet.

The Luton route, which operates three times a day, will become easyJet’s eighth UK domestic route from Belfast International. The carrot-coloured airline also offers flights from Belfast to Stansted and Gatwick in the southeast, Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, and the popular regional hubs, Liverpool, Newcastle, and Bristol.

EasyJet had previously said that its solitary flight from City could be supplemented with flights to other destinations. Whether that outlook will now be transferred to Belfast International is debatable, but not completely impossible, given Aldergrove’s emerging status as a provider of ‘sun and sea’ routes to Spain and Portugal.

Flights to Luton begin at £39.94, taxes included, for a one-way trip departing Belfast on June 7.


Belfast debuts £1 ‘light up fee’

People who already felt marginalised by the ban on smoking in public areas may feel that Belfast Airport is out to get them, after the Irish hub began charging customers £1 for the use of a designated smoking area. The ‘light up’ zone, located beyond the security gates, has polarised public opinion, according to the Irish Times.

“It’s neither beautiful nor welcoming. There is no view and nowhere to sit”, explains the newspaper. “Only the levity of the smokers’ camaraderie, a sort of modern-day Dunkirk spirit, lifts the pall”. While the zone is perhaps undeserving of such a poetic description, one that wouldn’t look amiss in a Second World War diary, beneath grainy photos of deserted, war-torn beaches, the Irish Times’ narrative nonetheless highlights the purely functional nature of the smoking area.

Airport chief, Deborah Harris, intimated that the new zone was borne out of necessity, rather than simple luxury, and that the £1 levy was a means of recouping the cost of building the smoking area. Belfast rarely accommodates people who wish to return to the landside of the airport to have a cigarette, which meant that, prior to the construction of the new zone, customers with cravings were stuck with them until they reached their destination airport.

Reaction to the smoking area has been mixed, but Belfast bosses were quick to note that the zone had been in use for a fortnight before it hit the headlines, and much of the controversy surrounding the area has been created by sensationalist journalists. However, much like the £1 drop-off fee that gained popularity (and infamy) during 2010, the coin-operated door on the smoking area has upset some travellers: “it’s a disgrace, so it is”, said one anonymous holidaymaker.

Belfast Airport’s designated smoking area is located near the hub’s duty-free stores.


Flybe furious with BMIbaby

Belfast International (Aldergrove) could find itself struggling to compete against its rivals in 2011, after budget airline BMIbaby announced a plan to shift its entire operation to Belfast City Airport, much to the chagrin of head airline Flybe. BMIbaby said that City offered the airline a “more convenient location”.

The Aldergrove hub will lose 48 weekly flights as part of the exodus, in addition to the two lost in October, when Isle of Man airline Manx2 performed a similar disappearing act.

Flights from Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and East Midlands airports will be sent direct to City from January 1 2011.

Criticism of the move came from all directions, with Belfast City Airport Watch (BCAW), an anti-expansion pressure group, questioning whether a sudden hike in passenger numbers would breach a cap on aircraft flying from the airport.

However, as Edwin Poots, the Irish minister, removed the limit on flights from City earlier this month, BCAW can no longer raise a legal objection to a BMI-instigated rise in passenger numbers. Since then, the words ‘residents’ and ‘fury’ have featured in several newspaper articles pertaining to the decision.

Budget carrier Flybe was equally unimpressed. The airline, which is a resident of City, said that it would make a "calculated and robust" response to BMIbaby’s relocation. Flybe began its retaliatory campaign by rubbishing claims by BMIbaby that the airline was moving to provide its passengers with more convenient services.

Mike Rutter, the boss at Flybe, told the Belfast Telegraph that “there has been a trend over the last few years for airport assets to be bought using debt finance,” adding that this "raises broader concerns for Northern Ireland’s aviation policy".

Whilst the loss of BMIbaby to City will certainly come as a blow to Aldergrove, bosses at the hub have been celebrating the arrival of a new airline, the largely unknown, Iceland Express. The North Atlantic carrier will begin running flights to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, from June 14 2011.


Republican bomb ‘there for a year’

Questions are being asked of security officials at Belfast International Airport, after an improvised bomb was found in a car at the Aldergrove hub. The device, which consisted of a pipe bomb lashed to cans of “flammable liquid,” may have been sitting undiscovered in the airport’s long-stay car park for “almost a year,” according to the BBC News website.

Officials found the explosive when an attempt was made to remove the vehicle from the car park. The long-stay facility was closed to traffic between 14.30 on Saturday, to 02.00 on Sunday morning, while army bomb experts removed the device. The airport remained operational throughout the crisis, but inbound passengers who had parked in the long-stay area were forced to stay at a nearby hotel.

The bomb’s timer, which had been set to detonate the device shortly after the car was abandoned, had failed a long time ago. Pipe bombs are, as their name suggests, ordinary pipes filled with explosive substances. The device has transcended centuries, and was very popular with combatants during the Belfast Troubles, despite being extremely volatile.

In the early 2000s, for example, at least two members of the paramilitary group, the Ulster Defence Association, were killed when the pipe bombs they were trying to use against a Catholic region of Belfast exploded in their hands.

Police believe that militants may be responsible for the bomb found at Belfast International, citing ‘dissident republicans’ as possible culprits. Sinn Fein member, Mitchel McLaughlin, said that the implications of having a bomb in a public place for almost a year were “almost too horrible to imagine.” Q Park, the owner of the parking space, was “confident” that the explosive’s extended stay was an exaggeration, however.


Extras gold for Belfast International

Earlier this month, Belfast International was named ‘Best Airport’ at the annual Holiday Extras Customers’ Awards. The ceremony, which was held at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, recognises the “best in travel”, from charismatic individuals to airport hotels and valet parking.

The UK’s larger airports, such as Heathrow and Edinburgh, were not successful in the Best Airport category, suggesting that size is not necessarily indicative of popularity. Newcastle International claimed the silver award, whilst the “spacious and airy” Robin Hood Airport walked away with a bronze trophy.

Holiday Extras claims that 25,000 people voted in the Customers’ Awards, choosing 36 winners in 12 different categories. Voters picked their favourites from 112 airlines, 28 UK airports and countless other travel firms.

Irish airline Aer Lingus defeated Virgin Atlantic and US giant Continental Airlines to take home the coveted ‘Best Airline’ accolade.

easyJet was crowned the airline with the best value for money, whilst Virgin managed to redeem itself in the ‘Best Airline Cabin Crew’ category, claiming gold.

Other awards included ‘Travel Personality of the Year,’ which was handed to TV presenter Julia Bradbury, the unusual ‘Best Airline for Travelling with Babies’ and ‘Best Hotel Restaurant.’

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Deborah Harris, Belfast International’s PR person, said that the airport was “delighted” with its Holiday Extras trophy and that “this award is in recognition of all the staff that work at the airport and give 110% every day to provide exceptional customer service to all our passengers".

Ryanair and UK flag-carrier British Airways were noticeably absent from the ceremony, as were Stansted Airport and regional hubs Birmingham and Manchester.