Six vacant routes between Belfast City and British airports have been taken over by Aer Lingus

Twenty weeks to the day after Flybe collapsed, the airport worst hit by the collapse has announced that six vacant routes are to be filled by the autumn.

Britain’s biggest regional airline failed in the early hours of 5 March 2020, as the coronavirus crisis was starting to affect aviation. Flybe operated around 200 routes, including some crucial links from Belfast to the other nations of the UK.

While Loganair, Eastern Airways and easyJet have filled some of the gaps created by Flybe’s failure, George Best Belfast City remains one of the worst-affected airports.

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Now Stobart Air, which operates for Aer Lingus Regional, has revealed plans to improve connectivity between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

The carrier will base five ATR72 propeller aircraft at the airport.

The first link, on 27 August, is to Edinburgh, with services to Exeter beginning the following day.

Flights to Manchester and Birmingham will operate from 14 September. On 1 October, routes to East Midlands and Leeds Bradford will open.

Brian Ambrose, chief executive of the Belfast airport, said: “Despite an extremely challenging environment, we’re delighted that Aer Lingus is to establish a new base and significantly enhance its UK network from Belfast City.

“As an island off an island, air connectivity with the rest of UK is critical to enabling the Northern Ireland economy’s recovery.”

Aer Lingus has already taken over the bulk of services between the City airport and London Heathrow – it has three daily flights, with sister airline British Airways providing two.

The Irish airline is now the largest operator out of Belfast City.

To reduce interaction between crew and passengers, all in-flight service has been suspended.

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