Stormont paying £2 million a year subsidy for non existent transatlantic flights

SDLP MLA Matthew O'Toole said more than £2 million a year is being paid to cover a subsidy for transatlantic flights.

Almost two years since the last direct flight between Northern Ireland and the US, Stormont is paying out more than £2 million a year to cover a subsidy for transatlantic flights.

SDLP assembly member Matthew O'Toole said the Executive is still returning £2.3 million each financial year to the Treasury as part of a deal in which the devolved administration axe long haul air passenger duty.

The £2.3 million reflects the lost revenue that would have been generated by a service between Belfast and New York if the duty had still been in place.

Aound £6 million has so far been committed to cover the subsidy for long haul flights that do not exist.

Mr O'Toole said the situation is "absurd" and called on Stormont's Finance Department to engage with the Treasury to end the payment.

The MLA said the anomaly has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 emergency and demanded the money be reallocated to pressing priorities in Northern Ireland.

"It is outrageous that in the current crisis circumstances, Northern Ireland is spending millions of pounds subsidising non-existent long haul air routes," he said.

"This is all the more shocking when one considers the dire prospects for our much more critical short-haul connectivity to Great Britain.

"We are paying for the privilege of having theoretically zero taxes on long haul travel despite not having had a single route since 2018 - and there being precious little prospect of any routes for the foreseeable future."

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