A new low-cost airline aiming to offer transatlantic flights from Northern Ireland has pushed back its launch to 2025.
Fly Atlantic had aimed operate flights from summer 2024 to destinations in Europe as well as North America.
But the airline said issues with the availability of suitable aircraft and licensing processes have caused delays.
Andrew Pyne, chief executive of Fly Atlantic, said “spring 2025” is “now the target for launch”.
He said: “The key issue is availability of aircraft. With the bounce back in passenger volumes globally post-pandemic, it’s become tougher to find suitable aircraft at the right price, hence the delay.”
When it was unveiled in November, the airline said it intended to operate to 35 destinations from Belfast once fully operational.
It said this would create 21,000 new jobs by 2030, consisting of 1,000 within the airline and up to 21,000 in tourism and support sectors.
The airline had said it would initially operate six aircraft at Belfast International Airport, with plans to grow to a fleet of 18 by 2028.
Mr Pyne said: “We would obviously like to be flying as soon as possible, delivering convenient, value-for-money transatlantic flights to the long-suffering Northern Ireland travelling public.
“However, setting up a new transatlantic airline is a complex exercise, and we are dependent on a number of external factors.”
He said airport infrastructure and licensing processes were also considerations alongside aircraft availability.
Mr Pyne added: “These elements are to an extent inter-related.
“A further issue we are pursuing is to get US immigration and customs preclearance set up in Belfast, as it applies already in Dublin and Shannon.
“We know that the airline will deliver huge benefits to Northern Ireland in terms of inbound tourism, but also through job creation and improved opportunities for inward investment.
“On this basis, we are very focused as a team on delivering the 2025 launch target.”
A spokesman for Belfast International Airport said: “We have been working closely with the team at Fly Atlantic since its inception and look forward to them commencing operations in 2025, providing even greater connectivity for Northern Ireland.”
Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council confirmed it has given £35,000 of funding to Fly Atlantic.
This included £20,000 to assist with costs related to concluding an investment agreement for the establishment of the new airline, and £15,000 to support a future bid to the UK Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council understands that Fly Atlantic is committed to bringing forward a new airline at Belfast International Airport at the earliest opportunity and remains committed to supporting the business to secure funding and attract investment.”