Fly Atlantic to launch in 2024 and will operate from NI to over 30 destinations
A major new transatlantic airline is set to launch in Belfast offering flights to more than 30 destinations, it has been announced.
Fly Atlantic will be launched in summer 2024 and will provide direct routes to North America, Great Britain and continental Europe from Belfast International Airport.
The airport will be the base for the new company, beating off competition from other bases in the UK and Ireland. Flights are expected to become available to buy from next year.
Once fully operational, the airline said it intends to operate to 35 destinations from Belfast and will create 21,000 new jobs by 2030 in the tourism and support sectors.
Fly Atlantic will now rival other airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which already operate international flights from Belfast. The Aldergrove airport also offers flights from EasyJet, Tui, Jet2.com and Wizz Air.
“Our vision is of Belfast as a strong aviation hub linking Europe and North America,” said Fly Atlantic’s chief executive Andrew Pyne, announcing the company’s arrival.
“The lack of direct transatlantic air services has clearly been an impediment to Northern Ireland’s economic and tourism development, which we now intend to remove. The project can be a game changer.”
Fly Atlantic said it plans to operate with six aircraft initially, which will grow to 18 by 2028.
The company said it is currently in discussion with Boeing and Airbus over aircraft, with choices including the Boeing MAX and the Airbus A321.
“We will be offering affordable fares with brand-new aircraft. We already have offices at the airport and will now be building out the infrastructure to support the airline’s launch,” said Mr Pyne, adding that Fly Atlantic will begin recruitment for 1,000 jobs early next year.
“Northern Ireland has a proud aviation and engineering history and we are delighted to be able to build on this tradition as we develop the airline and its support functions,” he continued.
The airline’s base in Northern Ireland comes as then-Economy Minister Gordon Lyons announced the Northern Ireland Route Development Scheme in October.
The scheme followed the Northern Ireland Domestic Aviation Kickstart Scheme (NIDAKS).
Last month, Mr Lyons said he wished to “develop our international connectivity, in order to drive inbound tourism and foreign direct investment, both of which are vital to the local economy”, which included attracting new airlines to Northern Ireland.
“Maintaining and enhancing our domestic and international air connectivity is essential to rebuilding Northern Ireland’s economy. As per NIDAKS, this will be a complex and complicated process, requiring time and focus to ensure the scheme is attractive to potential airlines,” he said.
Fly Atlantic’s Mr Pyne said Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, whose district is home to Belfast International Airport, has been “behind the project from the start” and their “commitment and support” were key factors in deciding to base the new low-cost airline in Northern Ireland.
“The announcement by Fly Atlantic is fantastic news — not only for the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough, but for Northern Ireland as a whole,” said Mayor Stephen Ross.
“Thanks to Fly Atlantic and Belfast International Airport’s unique partnership, we will soon be able to offer direct access to worldwide destinations.”
Mr Ross said the creation of the airline is a “key moment” for Northern Ireland and said it marked the “most significant local aviation announcement in recent history”. He added: “Belfast International Airport is the ideal hub for Fly Atlantic to base its operations due to its location, drive and ability to offer unparalleled experience and routes for passengers.”
Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport, said: “We welcome the announcement by Fly Atlantic and look forward to them bringing this project to fruition, as it would have very real economic benefits for Northern Ireland’s economy and would further enhance our international connectivity.”