A new airline wants to build a transatlantic hub in Belfast – but will the passengers come?

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“Thousands stranded arsenic fund hose ceases operation” – that was the header successful The Independent successful March 2019 erstwhile Wow Air closed down.

notation the unfortunate demise of the Icelandic airline, which went bust to the tune of €173m/£150m, due to the fact that a caller venture, Fly Atlantic, seems to person a akin concern plan.

Wow Air’s strategy was to funnel passengers from points crossed Ireland, Europe and the UK into an land hub connected the fringe of northwestern Europe.

Planes would interaction down from Dublin, Cork Edinburgh, Gatwick, Amsterdam, Lyon and Barcelona, discharge passengers into a transit area, and past administer them to North American cities specified arsenic Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.

Fly Atlantic is readying thing precise similar, starting successful summertime 2024. Except the land hub this clip volition beryllium Belfast International, the largest airdrome successful Northern Ireland.

Andrew Pyne, the airline’s main executive, said: “Our imaginativeness is of Belfast arsenic a beardown aviation hub linking Europe and North America.

“The deficiency of nonstop transatlantic aerial services has intelligibly been an impediment to Northern Ireland’s economical and tourism development, which we present mean to remove.

“The task tin beryllium a crippled changer. This is an hose that volition present greater connectivity and assistance transmit Northern Ireland’s unsocial individuality to a planetary audience.”

Fine words – but wherefore should Fly Atlantic enactment erstwhile Wow Air failed?

The costs should beryllium importantly lower: an hose based successful Iceland has to wage Icelandic-scale wages, which are higher than those successful Northern Ireland.

For astir of the prospective links, Belfast offers a much nonstop formation way than Reykjavik – redeeming astir 480km connected a London-New York jaunt.

Northern Ireland’s colonisation is 5 times bigger than that of Iceland, which should assistance with section demand.

Yet the pitfalls outweigh the advantages, I fearfulness – starting with competition. Wow Air was competing against Icelandair for transatlantic connecting traffic. There are nary nonstop rivals for a Belfast-based operation. But 1 of the large aviation occurrence stories implicit the past fewer years has been Dublin airdrome – and successful peculiar its transatlantic offering.

Dublin is 1 of fewer cities which tin connection “pre-clearance” for the US – whereby passengers walk done American borderline formalities portion inactive connected Irish turf. After touchdown successful the US, determination is nary request to way.

The process astatine Dublin Airport tin perchance prevention a mates of hours connected arrival.

Dublin has a gravitational propulsion connected radical from Northern Ireland who volition happily commercialized a mates of hours’ other travel overland for a decent fare, a wide prime of destinations and the accidental to swerve US borderline controls connected arrival.

Dublin Airport is besides seen arsenic a imaginable taxation saver by British travellers: portion long-haul departures from Belfast are exempt from Air Passenger Duty, anyone connecting from Great Britain would person to wage £87/€100 from adjacent April unless they intermission successful Belfast for a minimum of 24 hours.

And if Belfast started to gully excessively overmuch postulation distant from Dublin, Aer Lingus could travel successful with immoderate compellingly debased fares successful a bid to spot disconnected the upstart.

Assuming Fly Atlantic tin procure immoderate backing and immoderate planes, aboriginal summertime 2024 could beryllium afloat of bargains for travellers arsenic they play disconnected the fares from Belfast and Dublin.

But specified fares wars bash not look to past excessively agelong earlier idiosyncratic retires wounded – and it is seldom the incumbent.

I anticipation my pessimism is misplaced. A federation connected the acold northwest of Europe deserves to beryllium good connected to America, and Fly Atlantic’s program would bash conscionable that.

Let america anticipation the endeavor generates the close benignant of wow factor.

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