Thursday 22 August 2019

Norwegian Air cuts 'unsustainable' Ireland to North America routes

High flier: Tore Jenssen, CEO of Norwegian Air International
High flier: Tore Jenssen, CEO of Norwegian Air International

David Chance and John Mulligan

Norwegian Air is to axe its six routes from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to the US and Canada from September 15 this year as the routes “are no longer commercially viable”, it said in a statement.

The company said it had been undertaking a review of the routes and that the decision was given extra impetus by the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX.

“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,” said Matthew Wood, Senior Vice President of Long-Haul Commercial division at the company.

“However, as the return to service date for the 737 MAX remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable,” he said.

Norwegian is the third largest low-cost carrier in Europe behind easyJet and Ryanair and Norwegian Air International, whose Irish arm is led by CEO Tore Jenssen, posted a loss of $151mn last year.

Norwegian as blamed the global grounding of the troubled Boeing Max aircraft for its decision to axe the services.

Mr Wood said that “considering the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max aircraft, we have concluded that these routes are no longer commercially viable”.

Norwegian took delivery of its first Max jet from Boeing in June 2017. It soon deployed it on its services between Ireland and the United States.

It was operating routes from Dublin to Stewart International Airport in upstate New York, and to Providence, which served the Boston market. It suspended its Cork to Providence, Rhode Island, service last winter, with low customer numbers prompting the move. The service never returned.

The Shannon to Stewart service was also cancelled. Passengers due to fly out of Cork and Shannon this summer were bussed to Dublin for flights that were being operated initially by a third-party carrier, and then by a larger Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

A new service between Dublin and Toronto’s Hamilton airport that commenced last March is also being axed.

He added: “We are assisting customers by ensuring they can still get to their destination by rerouting them onto other Norwegian services. Customers will also be offered a full refund if they no longer wish to travel. We will continue to offer scheduled services from Dublin to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen as normal.”

A huge campaign was waged by the DAA and government agencies to secure the Norwegian services between Ireland and the United States. The decision by Norwegian to use an Ireland-based subsidiary to launch the low-cost transatlantic services caused a political storm in the United States. Airline unions in the US were also vociferously opposed to the airline being permitted to launch the services from Ireland.

Mr Wood said that Norwegian is “proactively engaging” with its pilots and cabin crew at its Dublin base, including their respective unions, to ensure that redundancies “remain a last resort”.

“Our 80 Dublin-based administrative staff at Norwegian Air International and Norwegian group’s asset company, Arctic Aviation Assets, will not be affected by the route closures,” he said.

“We would like to thank Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports in addition to New York Stewart, Providence and Hamilton airports, tourism partners and our colleagues and customers for supporting Norwegian’s transatlantic expansion from Ireland since 2017,” added Mr Wood.

Online Editors

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