Travel expert Eoghan Corry says Ryanair may have pulled out of Northern Ireland as a 'tactical' manoeuvre, but Brexit was also likely a factor in their decision.
Yesterday, the low cost-airline announced it was to stop flying out of Northern Ireland by the end of October.
It impacts flights from both Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport.
The airline claimed their decision was down to the UK government's "refusal to suspend or reduce" its air passenger duty, as well as "the lack of COVID recovery incentives from both Belfast airports".
On Breakfast Business, Eoghan Corry - editor of Travel Extra - said decisions to 'up stumps' from a particular airport is often a tactical move by Ryanair.
He said: “We’ve seen Ryanair play one Belfast airport against another repeatedly over the decades.
"What’s unusual this time is they’re pulling out of both airports.”
Eoghan said the airline was looking for better terms and incentives from the two airports, but there is also a “Brexit angle” to this.
He explained: “Ryanair has been at war with the UK Civil Aviation Authority over their internal flights. It also relates to flights from Britain to non-EU countries such as Morocco. The UK CA have looked for a UK licence.
“This is a little bit of a sideshow, but it has been running for around nine months without resolution. I suspect that’s part of what’s going on.”
Currently, Ryanair operates eight routes from Belfast City Airport - including several sun routes - and another ten from Belfast International.
Eoghan says Belfast City Airport were "rumoured to be pushing them for a bigger commitment" from the airline.
He explained: "They were looking for a winter schedule. Those talks probably didn’t go well, knowing Ryanair.
“Belfast International is a little bit more complicated. There is a major airline installed at Belfast International: EasyJet.
“I suspect we had this course of Ryanair talks… they were looking for certain guarantees and were probably looking for money. When they didn’t go well, [Ryanair] upped stumps.
“When you add the complication of the UK licence, it probably made sense for them to look elsewhere.
“The big question is will someone else move into Ryanair’s market? Both Belfast airports have said they’ve been talking to competitors."
Ryanair's business is booming as air travel resumes following the pandemic restrictions, with the firm getting good incentives from regional airports right across Europe.
The airline's chief executives Michael O'Leary and Eddie Wilson have often been extremely critical of Ireland's approach to aviation, particularly during the pandemic.
However, Eoghan doesn't believe they have the same capacity to "play hardball" with Dublin Airport when it comes to negotiating better terms.
He said: "Certainly with Shannon and Cork, you’ll have seen them play the two off each other.
"Dublin [though] is pretty important to them… they’re dominant in that Dublin-London run.”
And what does the future hold for Belfast City Airport if the Ryanair decision sticks?
Eoghan explained: “Belfast City, remember, got a very big body blow when FlyBe pulled out. I suspect that’s why they tempted Ryanair in to replace some of those services.
"They’re largely reliant on Aer Lingus and British Airways - of course, they’ve lost the Stobart services, but Emerald are going to step in [there].”