Norwegian Air puts brakes on Belfast-US services

Airline is ending its flights on Belfast-Rhode Island route because of lack of passengers

Norwegian Air: as well as route reductions, the airline has decided to sell new craft it has ordered to ease some of its financial woes.

Norwegian Air: as well as route reductions, the airline has decided to sell new craft it has ordered to ease some of its financial woes.

 

News that Norwegian Air is axing its Belfast-US services next month comes hot on the heels of the Scandinavian carrier’s announcement that it is dropping its Edinburgh-New York state route.

Norwegian’s decision to ditch the Scottish flights is down to the punishingly high £75 a-head passenger duty it pays on flights from Edinburgh Airport.

Politicians had promised to halve the charge, but the Scottish assembly’s failure to agree this, and delays in Brussels over a related issue, prompted the carrier to end flights from there to Stewart International Airport, which is about an hour from New York city.

A lack of passengers, rather than the duty, is the reason Norwegian is ending its flights from Belfast to Stewart and Providence, Rhode Island. The airline’s statement said a review of customer demand led to the decision.

Oddly, its statement mentions Cork as one of the possible alternatives for those who would otherwise have flown from Belfast. This ignores that such passengers would have to travel the length of Ireland for a flight, and that Norwegian cut its Cork-Providence to summer only from year-round.

Whatever the reasons it gives for the cuts, Norwegian is feeling the pressure. Along with the route reductions, the airline plans to sell new craft that it has ordered to ease some of its financial burden.

Norwegian wants to offer cheap flights from Europe to North America and Asia. Given that low-cost is now the standard for flying within continents, it has always seemed logical to assume that this could translate to flying between them, particularly as advances in aircraft technology cut costs.

Norwegian is testing this logic, but results are mixed. One reason may be that it is trying to do too much too soon, or that it is flying to secondary rather than premier airports. A third may be that the market it anticipated simply is not there.

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