The United Airlines flight to New York is crucial for NI

The reprieve for the only long haul flight from Northern Ireland to New York is welcome.

Friday, 12th August 2016, 11:43 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 7:41 pm
Morning View

The United Airlines direct daily service to Newark has been under threat several times before.

This time United said it intended to scrap the service next month. A £9 million rescue package is in place.

Billions of pounds of public money is spent in Northern Ireland every year and hundreds of millions of pounds are awarded in grants across a large range of areas.

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If anything is deserving of some external financial support it is this route, which provides a key link to arguably the most important city in the United States, but also to multiple onward destinations via Newark.

There are, of course, many more destinations served by Dublin Airport and many more still out of London, but both those options involve an extra two hours or so of travel and connection time. Having to route via those two cities means that Northern Ireland becomes a less attractive place for Americans to visit or do business with.

The Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim, Danny Kinahan, has spoken warmly about the cross-party effort that went into retaining the service.

He is right to be pleased with that lobbying. But there are wider lessons to be learned about the way in which Dublin Airport has become so successful compared to the three Northern Ireland airports.

Dublin serves a bigger population but it did not divide its airport provision and has achieved a critical mass. It is also well-located for Ulster travellers on the northern side of Dublin, and it now has superb road links from all directions.

Belfast International Airport, on the other hand, has a thoroughly inadequate road link from either the M2 or M1. 
We can do nothing now about the fact that we have three airports, thus preventing any NI airport developing the same critical mass as Dublin, but we can at least improve the transport links to the biggest of those three.