Northern Ireland

George Best Belfast City Airport: KLM to establish Amsterdam service

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Media captionKLM Royal Dutch Airlines will begin the daily service to Schiphol, Amsterdam from May

One of Europe's biggest airlines is set to return to Northern Ireland after a 15 year absence.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is to begin a daily service between George Best Belfast City Airport and Amsterdam from May.

It is the second major new carrier recently announced, following low-cost Spanish operator Veuling.

KLM ceased direct flights between Belfast International and Amsterdam Schiphol in late 1999.

The route has since been offered by Easyjet.

Katy Best from George Best Belfast City Airport said: "Attracting an airline such as KLM to Northern Ireland, is a major win for the airport, tourism and local businesses who will benefit from KLM's worldwide network."

She said Northern Ireland passengers now had easier connectivity through Schiphol to South America, the Middle East and Far East.

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Image caption It is the second major new carrier recently announced by the airport, following low-cost Spanish operator Veuling

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster welcomed the boost for Northern Ireland, where airports have been battling against losing passengers to Dublin with its greater route choice and zero air passenger duty.

"Air connectivity plays a crucial role in growing our economy and the access to a KLM service will provide global markets with help to ensure that Northern Ireland becomes even more accessible for those who wish to visit or do business here," she said.

Ms Foster has previously prioritised direct routes to Germany and North America.

Belfast City has applied to lift a planning restriction on the number of seats for sale it can offer and there will be a public inquiry on its proposal later this year.

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