Low-cost carrier Norwegian has announced plans to drop all of its remaining flights between the Republic of Ireland and North America. In a statement published on August 14, the airline said it would discontinue all six transatlantic routes from September 15, giving affected passengers and other key stakeholders little more than four weeks notice.
The company has cited the ongoing grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX as the key driver behind the decision. Norwegian has been hit hard by the problems with the narrowbody jet, which formed part of the business case behind its long-haul operations from Dublin, Shannon and Cork. The difficulties have been further compounded by longer-term engine issues with some examples within its long-haul Dreamliner fleet.
Matthew Wood, SVP long-haul commercial at Norwegian commented: “As the airline moves from growth to profitability, we have conducted a comprehensive review of our transatlantic operations between Ireland and North America and considering the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, we have concluded that these routes are no longer commercially viable.
“We take a strict approach to route management and constantly evaluate route performance to ensure we meet customer demand. Compounded by the global grounding of the 737 MAX and the continued uncertainty of its return to service, this has led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue all six routes from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to the US and Canada.”
The services from the Republic of Ireland were the last remaining ‘regional transatlantic’ flights by Norwegian. In 2017, the carrier also launched services from Edinburgh and Belfast to lesser-known airports on the US East coast including New York/Stewart International, Providence/TF Green and Hartford/Bradley. However, over the past 18 months these have been gradually withdrawn, with various reasons being given by the airline, ranging from Brexit uncertainty through the Air Passenger Duty charges.
Wood explained that the airline had been working hard behind the scenes since the 737 MAX grounding to backfill capacity on the Irish routes: “Since March, we have tirelessly sought to minimise the impact on our customers by wet-leasing replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America. However, as the return to service date for the 737 MAX remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable.”
The carrier has assured customers booked on affected services that they will be offered a full refund, or be rerouted via alternative Norwegian services. Short-haul routes from Dublin to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen are unaffected by the announcement.
As for possible redundancies, Norwegian said it is “proactively engaging” with pilots and cabin crew at its Dublin base, to ensure that job losses “remain a last resort”. The firm added that 80 administrative staff based in the Irish capital at Norwegian Air International and Arctic Aviation Assets – the group’s asset company – will not be impacted by the route closures.
We beg to differ https://t.co/y6eQsUj7Tl
— Aer Lingus (@AerLingus) August 13, 2019
As evidenced in a rather sassy tweet on Monday, Aer Lingus appears best-placed to soak up much of the capacity shortfall between Ireland and North America. The announcement by Norwegian comes as the Irish flag carrier is set to launch Airbus A321LR services between Dublin and Hartford/Bradley. The aircraft is designed to offer cost-effective operations on the firm’s lighter transatlantic routes currently rostered with Boeing 757 examples.