Norwegian has blamed the Scottish government’s failure to reduce Air Passenger Duty (APD) for its decision to axe its last-remaining transatlantic route from Edinburgh. Outlining its 2019 summer flying programme, the carrier revealed it will terminate its non-stop links from the capital to Stewart, New York state, next March, just 18 months after its launch. This follows a similar move with flights to Providence in Rhode Island and Bradley, Connecticut, which were introduced last June “with the prospect of a reduction in air passenger taxes that was unfortunately postponed by the Scottish Government,” Norwegian reported. Both routes have since been closed.
The airline is also poised to cancel two routes to Spain, leaving just three direct connections from Edinburgh – to Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm.
Speaking to The Independent, a Norwegian spokesperson disclosed: “Following a comprehensive review of our services from Edinburgh, we have decided to withdraw routes to the New York and Boston areas, Barcelona and Tenerife with the last flights departing on March 30, 2019.
“Our affordable US flights were launched with the prospect of a reduction in air passenger taxes that was unfortunately postponed by the Scottish government and this has led us to fully withdraw our transatlantic services.”
Responding to the move, a spokesperson for Edinburgh Airport told The Scotsman: “This is a desperately disappointing decision, entirely caused by a complete failure of the Scottish Government to live up to its commitment to reduce the tax paid by Scots travellers. This failure diminishes choice for passengers and is a shot in the arm for European cities already relishing Britain’s isolation from mainland Europe.”
Norwegian’s decision coincides with claims the UK could be losing out on more than 60 new direct routes – including 15 long-haul connections outside of London – because of the government’s policy on APD.
The study, carried out by Frontier Economics on behalf of trade body Airlines UK and issued in late September, looked to identify potential new connections that could receive a viability boost if the tax was scrapped. It concluded that 66 new routes could be added by airlines, while a sample of eight routes dropped by carriers in recent years on the grounds they were loss-making could have been economically viable had APD been abolished.
Commenting on the report, which has received widespread support from the industry, Airlines UK CEO Tim Alderslade said: “As we prepare to leave the EU, the government should be doing everything in its power to create the right conditions for economic success. Levying the world’s highest rate of tax on air travel is incompatible with this goal.” He added: “The message from this report is clear – get rid of this damaging tax once and for all and carriers will be in a position to respond in kind with more routes, greater frequency and better connectivity for the whole of the UK.”