Belfast International Airport says the 750 new jobs that will be created as a result of Ryanair’s decision to open a new base here is the best possible start to 2016 for Northern Ireland.

Ryanair will deliver well in excess of one million seats with three based aircraft at the airport. The hundreds of new jobs have the added attraction of coming with negligible support from the Government. The overall development is being described as the ideal response to the crippling economic news delivered late last year with the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs. The four times daily Gatwick service will maintain the slots given up by Aer Lingus as part of the IAG takeover of that airline.

Belfast International Airport Managing Director, Graham Keddie, said: “This is a most welcome announcement. The jobs and investment are considerable and amount to a valuable inward investment at low or no cost to the taxpayer.

“The full range of destinations to be served by Ryanair will be revealed later in the year, but from an airport perspective, the potential to add more than one million additional passengers will have a dramatic effect on our business.

“We already offer great choice to passengers through our established airlines, and Ryanair will reinforce that offer. Ryanair’s return to Belfast is good news for the region. It will enhance the overall Belfast-London Gatwick service and establish it as the leading and most important London ‘gateway’ from Northern Ireland, eclipsing Heathrow in terms of frequency of service and seat capacity.

“Hopefully, we won’t have too long to wait before this growth-focused airline helps us with new and badly-needed routes to key European markets not already served from here.

“Against the drag of the regressive Air Passenger Duty (APD), we’ve been able to achieve this most significant and positive development. Just think what we could do if our Stormont administration bought into our vision for in-bound tourism growth, new routes and thousands of jobs.

“Some years ago, Ryanair’s flamboyant boss, Michael O’Leary, labelled us ‘Lough Neagh International’, and today, we welcome him back to Belfast at the region’s principal airport and the second most important airport on the island of Ireland.”