Belfast Telegraph

Norwegian Air cancels its Belfast-US flights during winter months

By Andrew Madden

Budget airline Norwegian Air has confirmed it will be suspending its transatlantic service from Belfast for the winter months.

The move comes less than a year after the airline started operating routes from Belfast International Airport to the greater New York and Boston areas.

Belfast is not the only city that will be affected. Norwegian is also suspending some of its routes from Cork, Shannon and Edinburgh for the winter.

The airline said it had made the decision to suspend the flights due to "lower demand".

Flights will stop at the end of October for Belfast.

"Following a comprehensive review of our services, we have decided to suspend flights from Edinburgh, Cork and Shannon to Providence in addition to the Belfast-New York route during the quieter winter period due to lower demand," they said.

"The services will continue to assess our transatlantic route performance as we confirm the route schedule for next summer."

When the budget airline announced its schedule of cheap flights to the US from Belfast in February last year, tickets sold in record time.

Within 24 hours of the announcement, more than 2,000 seats had been sold for the routes. There are no other direct airline routes which currently operate between Northern Ireland and the United States.

Speaking when the flights were launched, Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos said the airline was delighted to have struck the deal.

"The cost of transatlantic travel has been too high for too long, so by connecting Northern Ireland with smaller US airports, we can offer some truly affordable fares, allowing as many people as possible to fly," he added.

Norwegian flies to non-hub US airports and replicates the Ryanair model on transatlantic routes.

In February last year, the then-economy minister Simon Hamilton said his department would be providing "financial support" to Norwegian in the deal, although the exact value of this support was not revealed.

The department said they would be providing "marketing support" to the airline for the next three years "on the basis of a 50/50 matched funding split - ie 50% from the airline."

Prior to Norwegian launching its routes from Belfast, United Airlines ran Northern Ireland's only direct link to the US for years before poor financial performance rendered it unsustainable.

A £9 million rescue deal agreed by Stormont and United collapsed a few months before the route was halted because the financial package breached EU state rules.

The route between Belfast International Airport and Newark Airport first began in 2005, operated by Continental Airlines.

United took over the operation of the route in 2012 following a merger between the airline and Continental.

Last month it emerged that Norwegian has applied for permission to fly to Canadian airports and could launch services from the Republic of Ireland this summer.

It has applied to the Canadian Transportation Agency for an international licence to operate a service between member states of the EU and Canada.

Meanwhile, Dublin Airport is currently running Norwegian Air flights to the greater New York area all year round.

Belfast Telegraph

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