Northern Ireland is well-connected by air to London with over 18,000 flights per year between the two Belfast airports and the five main London airports, carrying over two million passengers. The Belfast airports also maintain good connections with other UK airports—Belfast International Airport has connections to fourteen domestic destinations, and Belfast City Airport to eighteen.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, my right hon. Friend Mr Osborne announced in this year's Budget that funding to maintain existing air connectivity to London—first announced in the 2013 Spending Round last June—will increase from £10 million to £20 million per year. It will be expanded to include provision for start-up aid for new air routes from UK regional airports—including those in Northern Ireland and the other devolved administrations—which handle fewer than five million passengers per year.
The devolved administration in Northern Ireland, or a regional body in Northern Ireland, may apply for access to the funding for regional air connectivity to maintain an air link from a Northern Ireland airport to London, where there is a risk that an existing link may be lost, and where the case for a Public Service Obligation has been made.
The Department for Transport is working with the Treasury to develop guidance that will clarify how the Government will ordinarily expect to interpret the European Union State aid guidelines on start-up aid for new air routes, and explain how the funding process will operate across the UK. The Department for Transport expects to publish this guidance in the autumn.