Norweigan Air announces details of Belfast air routes to New York and Boston
TWO new direct air routes are opening from Belfast International Airport to the US this summer in an announcement which came just six weeks after its previous transatlantic service was cancelled.
As revealed in the Irish News yesterday, low cost airline Norwegian Air will be running five flights a week to the greater New York and Boston areas.
Three weekly flights will fly directly from Aldergrove to Stewart International Airport in New York State, 90 minutes away from the Big Apple.
And two flights a week will go to T.F. Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, 90 minutes away from Boston.
Both routes are scheduled to begin their operations from July 1.
The new transatlantic routes are also set to be the cheapest the north has seen, with prices for both flights starting at £69 one way.
As opposed to flying to Boston and New York's larger airports, Logan International and JFK respectively, Norwegian Air has chosen smaller airports in order to keep costs to a minimum.
This significant cost saving (transatlantic flights would typically cost several hundred pounds) is because these areas carry much lower landing charges than their larger counterparts.
Norwegian Air were rumoured to be moving in on Belfast in the immediate aftermath of United Airlines' final take off from the airport six weeks ago.
United ran the north's only direct link to the US for years before poor financial performance rendered it unsustainable.
A £9 million rescue deal agreed by Stormont and the airline fell through some months before it was stopped because the financial package breached EU state rules.
The route between Belfast International Airport and Newark first began in 2005, operated by Continental Airlines.
United took over the operation of the route in 2012 following a merger between it and Continental.
Economy minister Simon Hamilton said his department would be providing "financial support" to Norwegian Air in the deal, though the exact value of this support was not revealed.
A department spokesman said marketing support will be provided for the next three years "on the basis of a 50/50 matched funding split - ie 50 per cent from the airline."
Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International Airport, said the new routes will see the north reap significant financial dividends.
"Both symbolically and from an economic standpoint, the New York link is the best possible boost for Northern Ireland," he said.
"We're set to see a reduced corporation tax rate to help boost our inward investment, and it would have been undermined if we didn't have a direct service."
Norwegian Air's chief executive Bjorn Kjos said the airline was delighted to have struck the deal.
"The cost of transatlantic travel has been too high for too long so by connecting Northern Ireland with smaller US airports, we can offer some truly affordable fare, allowing as many people as possible to fly," he added.
The new transatlantic routes will be operated on the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, for which Norweigan Air is the European launch customer.
Norwegian has also announced the expansion of its transatlantic flights from Dublin Airport which will mean operate a total of 12 transatlantic flights per week to the US east coast comprising from July 1.
Meanwhile, there was also good news for the City of Derry Airport, as it announced securing twice daily flights from London Stanstead beginning in May.