Residents of Northern Ireland’s capital city were looking up to the skies this past week to catch a glimpse of an iconic Douglas DC-3 Dakota as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines brought the historic aircraft to Belfast to promote the Netherlands’ national carrier’s return to the Northern Ireland market next month.
Special guests and local competition winners enjoyed a champagne reception at George Best Belfast City Airport, before stepping back in aviation time and boarding the world-famous plane, which was originally built in 1944, to enjoy a scenic flight over Belfast. Days earlier the aircraft had offered a similar opportunity to the Yorkshire public from Leeds Bradford International Airport.
ROUTES EUROPE 2017 will take place in Belfast, Northern Ireland, hosted by a partnership led by Visit Belfast and Invest NI, and supported by Tourism NI, Tourism Ireland, Belfast International Airport, George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast City Council. It will be held in the in the newly expanded Belfast Waterfront Conference and Exhibition Centre between April 23-25, 2017.
The DC-3s arrival in Belfast coincides with KLM’s return to the Northern Ireland market. The flag carrier will inaugurate a daily link to Belfast City from its Amsterdam Schiphol base from May 18, 2015, not only support point-to-point demand but also providing connection options to over 200 destination from the major European hub.
“We are very pleased to add George Best Belfast City Airport to our network of departure points across the UK and Ireland. KLM recognises the significance of Belfast as a departure point for both business and leisure travellers, and passengers will now be able to enjoy convenient connections to over 200 destinations worldwide, from their regional airport,” said Warner Rootliep, general manager UK & Ireland, Air France-KLM.
The link to Belfast, operated by KLM cityhopper, will mark the return of KLM branded operations to Northern Ireland’s capital city, its 14th destination in the UK market. The daily route, operated using a Fokker 70, will come almost 15 years after the market was last served by KLM uk in October 1999, albeit then serving Belfast International Airport.
The Dutch carrier aims to take advantage of the emergence of Belfast as a developing business and leisure destination as it moves away from its historic industries such as shipbuilding to develop as a centre for the arts, higher education, business, and law. Tourism Ireland hopes to grow foreign visitor numbers from around three million in 2012 to 4.5 million by the end of this decade.
The new route (schedule: KL947 AMS1000 – 1040BHD F70 D; KL948 BHD1115 – 1350AMS F70 D) will place KLM in indirect competition with easyJet on the city pair, with the latter offering regular flights between Belfast International Airport and Amsterdam Schiphol. The Belfast City– Amsterdam Schiphol route being flown by KLM was last served between October 2011 and June 2012 by now defunct low-cost carrier bmibaby.
“Attracting an airline such as KLM to Northern Ireland, is a major win for the airport, tourism within the region and local businesses who will benefit from KLM’s worldwide network,” said Katy Best, commercial and marketing director, George Best Belfast City Airport.
With imports of goods from the Netherlands increasing in recent years and the country being one of the largest export markets in the EU for Northern Ireland manufacturers, this route ensures daily connectivity with major export and business markets identified by Invest Northern Ireland.
“KLM’s connectivity too many source markets will be particularly appealing to Northern Ireland for both business opportunities and tourism development. It is our aim to attract new airlines to Northern Ireland and to further develop our domestic and European route network through working with the government,” she added.
Ahead of KLM’s debut in Belfast, Belfast City will this week welcome the arrival of Spanish low-cost carrier Vueling, which will commence a new twice weekly link from Barcelona from May 3, 2015. The link is already due to be increased to a three times weekly schedule from June 21, 2015 to meet demand.