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GEORGE Best Belfast City Airport claimed a coup yesterday after capturing a major operator from the International Airport.

Bmibaby announced it was shifting its flights from Aldergrove in January.

The budget airline said it was moving its Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and East Midlands services to the East Belfast facility because it offered a more convenient location.

The move will provide a boost for the City only months after Ryanair pulled out of the airport in frustration at planning process delays in approving a runway extension that would enable it to fly to more European destinations.

It also represents a challenge for rival operator Flybe, which already flies from the City to the same destinations.

Bmibaby's parent company bmi British Midland International already operates a frequent route to Heathrow from the City.

Chief executive Wolfgang Prock-Schauer said it made sense to operate all of the group's business out of one airport.

He said: "Bmi British Midland International has a long and proud connection with Northern Ireland, serving the city of Belfast for over 26 years.

"It makes obvious business sense to have the bmi group airlines serving the same Belfast airport. The group's physical pres-ence at the airport is also increased and customers now have an excellent range of bmi group UK destinations available."

The shift will see up to 48 weekly flights leaving the City rather than Aldergrove.

Brian Ambrose, chief executive at the City, said: "This is great news, not only for the 1,500 people employed here but the wider community who rely on the airport's continuing success."

Earlier, the Intern at i o n a l announced a new service of its own, to Reykjavik in Iceland by Iceland Express from next summer.

In welcoming the move, Aldergrove's business development director Uel Hoey hinted at his views on bmibaby's decision.

He said: "As a committed and integral supporter of NI plc, our priority is to invest in the provision of new and vital direct access channels from key source market. The aim should be to develop the market, not splinter or replicate services to the detriment of the economy.

"We are not in the business of simply rearranging the existing business in the market with the aim of satisfying some short-term objectives. We continue to strive to have the broad regional objectives of our business recognised and supported by Northern Ireland's policy-makers."
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 26, 2010
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