Bernie Baldwin

Route development and digital transformation are key to BHD’s success, explains Commercial Director Katy Best.

When an airport is named after one of the most gifted people to ever grace a sporting arena, the drive to be successful becomes an inbuilt characteristic. And the team at George Best Belfast City Airport has striven through a global pandemic and the major shake-up of the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit) to deliver some major recent successes, particularly in route development.

The airport’s network offers flights to 15 UK destinations, but has had a few gaps on its route map of European destinations. Katy Best, commercial director at George Best Belfast City Airport, acknowledges this, but is now in a position to announce remedies to that issue. “Belfast City Airport has further enhanced its European network with the return of Ryanair, which will now fly to eight sunshine destinations,” she reports. “The airport now has the most extensive European route network in its history, with a total of nine destinations being served throughout the summer of 2021.”

Best is now aiming to add desirable destinations across France, Germany, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries. “In the future, Belfast City Airport would like to pair with other key cities across Europe, particularly those that can provide further hub access for Northern Ireland such as Frankfurt, Munich, Paris and Copenhagen,” she explains. “The location of the airport, just five minutes away from Belfast city centre, makes this an attractive option for such city pairs.”

In addition to route developments, Belfast City has been investing in its infrastructure. A recently agreed three-year partnership with cloud-first information technology company Leaf IT has been signed in order to “strengthen the airport’s digital transformation programme”. The commercial director elaborates on where the tangible benefits of this collaboration will be seen.

“The collaboration between the two Belfast-based organisations, which will increase internal process efficiencies and enhance the overall passenger experience, has already resulted in a 50% reduction in IT operational support costs and is enabling the airport to make more accurate decisions for the benefit of the customer,” Best states.

“The airport has also recently signed a contract for the installation of 5G, making it one of the most connected transport hubs in the UK and improving the efficiency of the passenger journey,” she continues. “The last year has placed an emphasis on reducing contact-points for airport and through advanced technologies, the airport aims to facilitate a completely contactless journey for passengers.”

Like many a business around the world, support from local authorities and governments has been helpful in getting through the pandemic. “Belfast City Airport has been well supported by the Northern Ireland Executive during the pandemic and it continues to work closely with the Government to ensure all guidelines are followed,” Best confirms. “Given that the aviation sector remains one of the hardest hit industries in the past year, the ‘rates holiday’ for many businesses across Northern Ireland has helped provide certainty and encouragement to the airport.

“Our chief executive, Brian Ambrose, has been liaising with the Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, to safeguard the airport’s plans for the future, ensuring that it has a sustainable regrowth plan and remains a critical part of Northern Ireland’s economic structure,” Best emphasises.

That seems like healthy basis from which to kick on and score more successes.