A public inquiry will examine an attempt by George Best Belfast City Airport to change part of its planning agreement to pursue more direct European routes.
The inquiry in Belfast is due to hear evidence over four days, beginning this morning (Monday).
The airport is limited to selling no more than two million departing seats per year but argues that this a barrier to growth.
It wants to remove the so-called ‘seats for sale’ cap.
But number of residents in areas under flight paths have concerns over noise.
Last year the airport handled 2.5 million passengers on 37,226 flights – a figure representing both departing and incoming travellers.
Airport chief executive, Brian Ambrose, said: “Belfast City Airport is seeking the removal of a limit on the number of seats it can sell from the airport in a modification to its current planning agreement.
“Its removal will allow the airport to compete and actively pursue additional airlines and more direct European routes.
“Today we welcome KLM to Belfast City with the commencement of services to Amsterdam and earlier this month Vueling began flights to Barcelona.”
He added: “We want to continue to play our part in re-energising the city and the region. The removal of the seats for sale cap will enable the airport to attract more visitors to Belfast, creating jobs and boosting the local economy.
“The removal will not mean more flights as this is capped at 48,000 per annum
“No larger planes will use the runway than currently do so.
“Those living in proximity to the airport will continue to be protected from noise with no night time flights and no cargo planes.
“If the seats for sale restriction is removed, the airport will adhere to noise restrictions as imposed by the Department of the Environment.
“We look forward to the public inquiry and the removal of an outdated constraint on our operations.”
But Belfast City Airport Watch, a group representing residents, argue the airport’s attempt to alter planning is “unacceptable”.
Chairman Liz Fawcett told the BBC: “We have evidence that many residents already suffer disrupted sleep, higher stress and poorer quality of life, due to existing levels of aircraft noise.”
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