It’s sad that Norwegian prefers to fly from Dublin but no surprise

Morning View
Morning View

When Belfast International secured Norwegian Air routes to north America, it was leap forward for transport links to and from Northern Ireland.

The preceding loss of the United Airlines service to Newark had been a blow, because it had happened despite the offer of government funding.

The Ulster University economist Esmond Birnie said last night: “If we had an effective regional government it would be urgently considering the question whether the strategic subsidy of a few international connections could be justified.”

He said there was some international economic evidence that greater connectivity leads to benefits such as more tourist spend and possibly foreign direct investment and exports and productivity.

They are, Mr Birnie said, “all things we desperately need”.

Among the reactions to yesterday’s news, the Ulster Unionist and Alliance parties called for Air Passenger Duty to be scrapped in Northern Ireland. And there are indeed powerful arguments in favour of such a move, given the importance of air travel to a Province that is on the edge of the UK.

But they did not mention the fact that Northern Ireland not only has three airports, Stormont stepped in to fund to City of Derry airport a few years ago to help keep it going, despite its derisory passenger airports.

Dublin, on the other hand, has one major airport, cleverly located to be accessible to the entire greater Dublin area via the six-lane M50 ring road with its flyover junctions, but also on the north of Dublin, beside a motorway that makes access to Northern Ireland easy.

Little wonder that Norwegian has stuck with that route, which has such a huge catchment area and, as the airline implied, serves Northern Ireland passengers too.

The implications of our split airport provision should be carefully examined, yet when Stormont was running there was little sign of MLAs seriously discussing the matter.