A new route from Gatwick to Belfast International airport is being introduced by Ryanair as part of an expanded summer schedule from the London airport.
The Irish low-cost carrier is growing by 60% from Gatwick starting with four flights a day to Northern Ireland from March.
Frequency on an existing Gatwick-Dublin route will rise from five to seven flights a day, also from March.
This will give Ryanair 18 daily returns to London area airports from the Irish capital, including eight to Stansted and three to Luton.
The carrier will operate a total of six routes from Gatwick and aims to carry 1.6 million passengers a year from the airport.
Ryanair plans to base three aircraft at Belfast international from October and add five unspecified new routes.
Airport managing director, Graham Keddie, said: “This is a significant and far-reaching announcement by Ryanair.
“The Gatwick slots given up by Aer Lingus as part of the IAG takeover, are being safeguarded and used for the benefit of Northern Ireland. Gatwick is growing in popularity, and it was crucial to retain them.
“In addition, the promise of three based aircraft and five more new routes to be announced later in the year increases Northern Ireland’s ‘reach’ and gives Belfast International a competitive edge.
“This very positive news is the equivalent of a major inward investment without the strain on public finances.
“It will deliver thousands of new visitors and hundreds of welcome new jobs.
“Despite the damaging Air Passenger Duty, this announcement shows Belfast International can defy the odds.
“Just imagine what we could achieve if the ‘yoke’ of APD were removed, as it has been in the Republic of Ireland?”
A Ryanair spokesman said: “We are pleased to announce a new service from London Gatwick to Belfast International - our 77th base and newest airport - which will operate four times daily from March, and more flights to Dublin, as part of our expanded summer 2016 schedule.”
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