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Last Updated: Friday, 27 May, 2005, 08:52 GMT 09:52 UK
Take off for flights to Big Apple
Continental Airlines plane
Continental is flying from Belfast to New York
The first direct flight from Belfast to New York has taken off.

Continental Airlines, America's fifth-largest airline, is operating a daily service during the summer and four times a week in the winter.

The flights are between Belfast International Airport and Newark airport, near New York.

The service is receiving start-up grant aid from the government's air route development fund.

Managing director of Belfast International Airport Albert Harrison said the service was good news for Northern Ireland consumers.

"Bookings are looking very promising, especially in business class which is a bit of a surprise for Continental," Mr Harrison said. "They expected the back-end to fill up first and business class to fill up afterwards.

"Business class already on several days is full so they are actually trying to rebook passengers on later flights, so the signs are encouraging."

Confidence boost

Chief executive of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board Alan Clarke said it was a confidence boost for tourism in the province.

Mr Clarke said Northern Ireland's economy would also benefit from the fact that American tourists - who he said tend to stay longer and spend more than others - could now fly directly to Northern Ireland.

On the first flight from New York to Belfast was Bill Purcell, the mayor of Belfast's sister city, Nashville.

He said he thought more Americans would use the service "when they get reports from people like me".

Fuel costs hit Continental profit
20 Apr 05 |  Business
New Belfast-NY flight
07 Oct 04 |  Northern Ireland

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