Norwegian Air axes transatlantic flights from Ireland

Flights to New York, Boston and Toronto will cease on September 15th

Up to 134 jobs are at risk after Norwegian Air announced its decision to axe all of its transatlantic routes from Ireland in September.

The budget airline said on Tuesday afternoon that it would close its Dublin base and will also cease flying from Shannon and Cork on transatlantic routes from September 15th. The company operated routes to New York, Boston and Toronto from the Republic's three biggest airports.

The move is bad news for pilots and cabin crew stationed at the company’s Dublin base. Although Norwegian’s 80 Irish-based administrative staff will not be affected, up to 134 pilots and cabin crew face an uncertain future, although Norwegian said redundancies “remain a last resort” as it planned to engage with staff and their respective unions.

In a statement, the carrier,which has its headquarters in Oslo, said the route closures followed a comprehensive review of its transatlantic operations and took into account the "grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft".


"We have concluded that these routes are no longer commercially viable," said Matthew Wood, a senior vice-president at Norwegian.

"Since March we have tirelessly sought to minimise the impact on our customers by hiring replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America. However, as the return to service date for the 737 Max remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable," Mr Wood said.

“We are assisting customers by ensuring they can still get to their destination by rerouting them on to other Norwegian services. Customers will also be offered a full refund if they no longer wish to travel.”

A spokesman for Dublin Airport operator DAA said it was disappointed that Norwegian had decided to end its transatlantic operations to and from Ireland "due to the financial impact of the worldwide grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft".

He noted, however, that the airline would continue to operate short-haul services from Dublin to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.

Global grounding

All variants of the Boeing 737 Max were grounded in March in the wake of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight, which killed all 157 passengers. The move particularly affected Norwegian, which had to deploy Boeing 787 Dreamliners to cover its Irish routes.

Norwegian said the grounding of the 737 Max family of aircraft was not the sole factor in its decision, although the uncertainty surrounding the return to service of this aircraft led the company “to make the difficult decision to discontinue all six routes from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to the US and Canada”.

Tourism Ireland chief executive Niall Gibbons said Norwegian’s decision was “regretable”, noting that it would impact competition among transatlantic carriers to the island.

“Tourism Ireland will continue to work with all airports, and other interests, to attract new carriers and services to Ireland and will help drive demand for these services through targeted, co-operative marketing campaigns overseas,” he said.

Graeme McQueen, head of communications at Dublin Chamber, said it was disappointed at the news because of the popularity of the routes and the strength of the transatlantic market.

“The latest figures from Dublin Airport show that transatlantic passenger numbers were up 5 per cent year on year in the month of July to just shy of 500,000. Dublin had almost four million transatlantic passengers in 2018 and this market had almost doubled in size since 2014,” he added.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business