Cork numbers make clear why Norwegian is suspending Boston route

Dismal load factor shows Cork-Boston route to be unpopular

A Norwegian Air Boeing 737 on the runway of Cork Airport after a transatlantic flight from Boston. Photograph: David Creedon/Anzenberger

A Norwegian Air Boeing 737 on the runway of Cork Airport after a transatlantic flight from Boston. Photograph: David Creedon/Anzenberger

 

When budget airline Norwegian announced that low demand had forced it to cancel its flights from Cork to Boston Providence airport from October for the winter, Corkonians were likely puzzled.

After just over a year and a half the flights will be pulled with uncertainty over whether they’ll return in summer 2019.

Figures released today from Cork Airport make it clear why Norwegian saw fit to stop flying the route.

According to the rather celebratory press statement, Cork Airport “has seen over 31,000 passengers” travel the three-times weekly route. That dropped to twice weekly between late October last year and late March.

Nevertheless, that is a dismal performance, equating to a load factor – a measure of how full flights are – of 65.8 per cent. For context, in April Ryanair recorded a 96 per cent load factor.

Cantillon is being slightly generous giving a load factor of 65.8 per cent, in fact. Because of runway restrictions at Cork Airport, for the first two months Norwegian flights taking off were restricted to 150 seats instead of 189 available.

Rewarding

The reason that changed in September 2017 was because the company used a Boeing 737 Max 8 on the route instead of the less fuel-efficient Boeing 737-800.

When all the seats are taken into account, the picture worsens and the load factor reduces to 62.1 per cent.

Cork Airport’s statement that this has been “a rewarding year for Ireland’s second largest airport” may be true, but it certainly hasn’t been quite as rewarding for Norwegian.

The figures don’t allow us to understand the performance of that particular route in the summer compared to the winter, one would have to hope that the winter is causing a drag on the figures.

If that’s not the case, it seems inevitable that doubt hangs over this particular route for next year.