The global airline with its distinctive livery will fly in June and July to the sunshine State using a 747-400 capable of carrying 455 passengers.
Belfast International Airport Director, Uel Hoey, said: “We have been having conversations with Virgin for three years and this news is the outworking of that engagement. Virgin has a reputation that is second to none with a quality product and level of service on long-haul routes that others cannot match.
“We are delighted with this decision which is not only a vote of confidence in Belfast International Airport but Northern Ireland. From June next year, we will be the only airport on the island to accommodate a Virgin service and that is something we are particularly pleased about.
“The experience Virgin Atlantic have enjoyed in Glasgow is something we would like to see replicated here, starting relatively modestly with a handful Orlando flights but within five years, it had developed their programme to over 50 summer flights. I have every confidence that the same can be achieved here.
“Passengers from the Republic of Ireland will be drawn to Virgin and Belfast and a full promotional campaign will accompany this roll-out.
“This is one of the most exciting announcements we have had at Belfast International in recent years. We are delighted that an airline with the status and reputation of Virgin has decided to expand its network by putting the entire island of Ireland on its ‘radar’.
“Virgin has an enviable global brand and this announcement represents a massive breakthrough for Northern Ireland. It’s also a welcome boost for our efforts to attract new international carriers and to continue to expand domestic services.”
ABTA director, Doreen McKenzie, says Northern Ireland is the clear winner with the arrival into the market next summer of Virgin Atlantic. Warmly welcoming the decision by Virgin to operate a Belfast International Airport-Orlando service next June and July, Mrs McKenzie said the news will inject new competition into a thriving Florida holiday sector.
Mrs McKenzie said: “Virgin has an incredibly strong and respected brand and I have no doubt but that it will prove immensely popular with Northern Ireland holiday-makers.
“Once the airline sees what the level of demand is like, I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if it decided to increase frequency, and perhaps look at other long-haul holiday destinations as well.
“Virgin is a most welcome addition to the list of quality operators serving the Northern Ireland market, and those who lobbied to make this happen deserve great credit.
“Northern Ireland is the winner with Virgin touching down and I expect the appeal will extend well beyond Northern Ireland with a strong likelihood that holiday-makers from the Republic of Ireland will also opt for the international airline famed for its quality and service.”