United Airlines is to restore its transatlantic service between Belfast and New York throughout all of 2016.

The United service between Belfast International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport is the only direct flight option between Northern Ireland and United States.

For nine weeks this year, between January 6 and March 11, the route did not operate, but the US carrier has now made the decision to restore the route between January and March in 2016, flying three times a week.

Belfast International Airport welcomed the restoration of the route saying that it is “wonderful news for Northern Ireland."

Belfast Airport’s Managing Director Graham Keddie told BBC News, "United's commitment is both welcome and substantial.

"We have been working with stakeholders to achieve this outcome and we are delighted it is now being delivered."

United Airlines to operate Belfast to US service through winter #NINews http://t.co/AKFXWU7u1B pic.twitter.com/Q5geBjG4Vh

— Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) August 3, 2015

He also noted the benefits the improved transatlantic service will have for the Northern Irish economy, allowing the Belfast airport to now compete more successfully with its Dublin counterpart.

"Our one and only direct, scheduled transatlantic service to Newark Liberty is a lifeline for US-owned firms and adds massively to efforts by Invest NI to attract additional and highly prized US investment," he said.

.@FSB_NI welcomes news that United Airlines are to restore route to Newark from Belfast as good news for the NI economy.

— FSB Northern Ireland (@FSB_NI) August 3, 2015

"United have a wonderful product that is clearly very popular. There are challenges, however, one of which is how to encourage more business passengers to use the main local airport for the transatlantic trip rather than go elsewhere.

"Clearly, United looked at the market and saw sufficient justification for a year-round service which is a further statement of confidence in Northern Ireland. Now, it's up to all of us to make it even more successful," he continued.

The benefits for Northern Ireland’s economy were also welcomed by former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sinn Féin’s Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, who believes that a year-long service between Belfast and the US could help the North in their attempts to improve its tourism industry.

"Not only will this allow American travelers, including business people and tourists, to travel to and from Belfast but it will also help secure jobs at the International Airport," he said.

"I have no doubt that if we want to double our tourism numbers and become a magnet for international business then we need to take the bold step of transferring all air passenger duty [APD, an excise duty paid on passengers flying from UK airports] powers to Stormont.

"Then we can make the best decisions in relation to APD based on maximizing the benefits to our economy and community."

The decision comes just months after hundreds of United passengers were forced to sleep on the floor at Belfast airport following an unscheduled landing due to an unruly passenger. The incident raised questions about the accommodation available to travelers in the area when it became apparent that hotels could not be found for the passengers overnight. 

H/T: BBC News