'Who thought this was a good idea?' - Belfast Airport under fire for Brexit style advertising campaign aimed at Dublin Airport passengers
Belfast International Airport has come under fire after it launched a Brexit-style advertising campaign in a bid to drive passenger numbers from the Republic of Ireland.
The campaign is called Vote to Leave and it says "choose BEXIT and enjoy more destinations and greater savings than ever before when you EXIT from Belfast International".
It comes as Belfast International Airport recently predicted its busiest summer yet with 2.3 million travellers expected to pass through its gates between now and the end of September.
The airport launched its billboard campaign aimed at people who live in the southern border counties to encourage them to use Belfast International Airport over Dublin.
Wont be long until this is withdrawn & your marketing department isn't based in London, who know nothing about Irish Brexit vote..— Chris :) (@chris_derry) June 12, 2017
As a person with 10+ yrs experience in marketing, this is a woeful idea. This screams of a half arsed mktng dept with no clue.— Freddy Lisburn (@aboutye1) June 12, 2017
This just reinforces my choice to only fly from Dublin.— Country's cowped (@MccarronMmc) June 12, 2017
Really... given that Brexit is such a divisive subject it's a tad distasteful. Shame on you. #Bexitnothankyou.— Margaret (@MPM76) June 12, 2017
Dublin airport is one of the fastest growing in Europe and has seen the number of its Northern Ireland based passengers continue to rise.
A Dublin Airport source said that, while Belfast International claims it's due to see 2.3 million passengers between the start of June and September, Dublin Airport managed “2.6 million in May alone... which puts it into context”.
Launching the campaign, Belfast International Airport's managing director Graham Keddie said there is a cost advantage of departing from Belfast given the strength of the euro against the pound.
Mr Keddie said: “The strength of the euro over the pound gives a distinct and clear advantage to southern passengers.
“We’ve been seeing a noticeable increase in the number of southern-registered cars in our car parks. We fly to 90 destinations in Europe and, at the beginning of July, Norwegian will commence trans-Atlantic services to New York and Providence (Rhode Island/Boston).
He added: "Savings are appreciable. Convenience, too, is a factor as, for many in the southern border region, it’s easier to drive north than south."
However the adverts, which were carried out externally by RLA Ireland, were not overwhelmingly well received on social media.
Twitter users accused the campaign of being "distasteful" in using the "divisive subject" of Brexit. Others said the premise of the advert didn't appear to make sense and questioned why the aviation code of "BFS" wasn't used.
However a spokeswoman for Belfast International Airport said they never use this in advertising campaigns.
One user said: "Belfast airport, you realise this is not a clever play on words right? Your airport code is BFS not BE and majority here voted remain".
Another said: "Given that Brexit is such a divisive subject, it's a tad distasteful. Shame on you."
And another said the advert read as though the airport was "supporting Brexit".
In response to the criticism, Belfast International Airport said it wanted to "make an impact" with its latest campaign.
A spokeswoman said: "We wanted to make an impact with our next marketing campaign and we have certainly done that. The fact is the current exchange rate makes Belfast International Airport a great value option for those passengers travelling from the Republic of Ireland.
"In the last few months we have seen an incredible increase in passengers from the border counties of Donegal, Sligo, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Leitrim using Belfast as a departure point and we very much hope to see many more of them."