Belfast Telegraph

Axing of Iceland flight put my fishing trip to Alaska on line, says angry Northern Ireland man

By Claire McNeilly

A disgruntled Northern Ireland traveller has told of his anger after he received an email out of the blue to say his flight from Belfast to Reykjavik this summer has been axed.

Hundreds of local holidaymakers could face similar disruption after the service, which was launched to great fanfare ahead of its inaugural flight last June, was scrapped quietly and without warning.

The final service from Belfast to the capital of Iceland will be on May 15, while the last service from Reykjavik to Belfast will be on the same day — a development that Gerry Lennon, chief executive at Visit Belfast, described as “disappointing”.

Pensioner Chris Donegan from Enniskillen was due to fly from George Best Belfast City Airport in July, having booked his summer trip last year at a cost of £850.

But Mr Donegan has just learned that he must now travel to Dublin to fly to Reykjavik in order to catch a connecting flight to Anchorage in Alaska ahead of a two-week holiday with a friend.

“They offered me a refund but that’s not an option because flights to Anchorage are now coming in at around £2,500, which is more than three times what I originally paid,” he explained.

“It’s not only that; I’ve already paid for accommodation and other expenses ahead of my fishing trip in Alaska so there would be other financial repercussions of not going ahead as planned.

“As I’m now flying from Dublin, it’s going to cost me an extra €28 to get there and back, and then, when I arrive at Reykjavik, the layover is four hours instead of an hour and 45 minutes.

“But I’m just relieved that I’m actually going to be able to make the trip.”

He added: “When they launched the service they made a really big deal out of it. It’s funny how we haven’t had a word about them pulling out after less than a year.” The 60-year-old keen traveller, a former journalist, added that he was unimpressed with Icelandair’s customer service in the wake of the disruption to his plans.

“They didn’t offer to upgrade me, which a lot of other carriers would do, and they wouldn’t give me free access to their lounge while I wait for my connecting flight either,” he said.

“I’m really annoyed with the way this has been handled. It took me most of the day to get through to someone in customer services and at one point there were 63 callers ahead of me.”

The airline apologised for the suspension of the direct service.

“Icelandair regrets to announce that the airline’s direct flight service to Reykjavik from Belfast will be suspended from May 15, 2018 due to commercial reasons,” it said.

“The flights were a co-operation between Icelandair and domestic carrier Air Iceland Connect and operated by a 72-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft. We are sorry for any inconvenience caused with these changes.”

The Belfast-Iceland service started on June 1 last year and operated three times a week. The final service between the cities will be in May, but a direct scheduled flight to Iceland from Dublin is due to start that month and will operate six times a week throughout the year. Customers booked to travel with Icelandair from Belfast after May 15 have the options of travelling to Reykjavik from Dublin Airport, changing the date of travel or receiving a full refund. Mr Lennon said Visit Belfast remained “optimistic about new opportunities”.

He added: “Visit Belfast will continue to work with both airports in supporting route development in order to grow visitor demand and reach our ambitions of doubling out-of-state tourism to Belfast by 2021.”

When the route was launched last June, George Best Belfast City Airport chief executive Brian Ambrose described it as “hugely exciting”.

He added: “We have a strong track record of forming successful partnerships with internationally-renowned airlines such as Icelandair.”

Last night Belfast City Airport declined to comment when contacted.

Belfast Telegraph

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