Belfast we need to talk about Norwegian Airlines – #travel #aviation #airports #northernireland

The northern ireland press lost it’s plop again….

The last 24 hours has been along the lines of OMG! Belfast to New York flight ends at the end of October…… but hey.

And the bet I made with myself at Routes Conference came to pass. Simply because when you have a lot of route experts in the room, well you go talk to them in the breaks, that’s when the conversations happen. I really should have put money on it.

It was going to happen…..

…..deep down we all knew it was going to happen because….. well simple supply and demand. There’s little demand so there was no point Norwegian stepping in to save a Belfast to New York route. The writing was on the wall when United ceased operations. When a £9m bailout is hastily approved (although illegal) you have to ask the question as to why when “Go to Iceland, see the sights for a day and then go to New York” was a better option, especially if you like rancid shark.

With < 20,000 passengers a year capacity (two fights a week and 189 passenger capatcity in a 737MAX) and a wafer thin profit margin, I’m surprised it flew at all. Load factors need to be in the mid 90’s to make a profit and with Norwegian’s IRO 88% load factor there’s a good probability it was loss making before it started.

Sadly I don’t have the actual numbers in my hand….. and any argument about airline passenger duty, well I’ve covered that before. A partially pointless exercise.

As far as the actual aviation press goes, and not BBC Newsline or the BelTel, this was a complete non story, no one has yet to cover it that I’ve seen.

Dear Belfast, Dublin Airport is your hub

And while this is going to be an unpopular opinion, your hub to the rest of the world is basically Dublin. And when it comes to US flights then hands down it is Dublin as the immigration pre clearance just makes like easier. And that’s what customers want oh and shopping, we all need the shopping, it’s emotionally programmed in to us.

Belfast is not a well connected airport in the grand scheme of things if you reverse the route. Coming in from New York you have a better hub from Dublin,

Cheap fares are not always cheap either. Once you add luggage, seat options and food how much are you actually saving compared to a “traditional” airline?

A number of airlines wanted to do Atlantic hops for years and when Ryanair were eyeing up Aer Lingus in times go by the aviation press though it was for transatlantic routes, it was never on their radar. This was happening around the same time that business class airlines were doing Atlantic routes, they didn’t last long, lack of demand. Sooooo……

The sad fact for Belfast types is this, you can drive to Dublin Airport in 100 minutes or so, or you could get the Aircoach or that other thing that Translink do to get you there.

Feed into Dublin

So we’ve established there’s a feed into Dublin Airport from Belfast (your car, train or private jet if you’ve got the money). Derry is another issue, and this is where it actually needs a route from City of Derry Airport in to Dublin Airport.

Now the tattered tale of Citywing’s flight into Dublin, whether it was planned or not, I’ve spoken about before. It is though something that does need to happen.

Now there’s nothing to stop that flight nipping down via Belfast and doing a pick up and then onto Dublin for pre clearance in to New York. The airports have to connect in a sensible way. Belfast International offering flights to the US is fine if they are self sustaining, which as it stands they are not.

To Conclude….

Loss making airlines don’t hang about once the subsidy has been spent. And that goes for any airport, not just Belfast.

I won’t leave it all bad, here’s a list of airports that do want to land at BFS: Aberdeen International, Billund, Brussels, Cambridge, Cologne, Faro (again), London Oxford, Munich, Murcia and Shannon (LAND IN SHANNON! Hint!).


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