Norwegian to Axe All Transatlantic Routes from Ireland

 - August 13, 2019, 1:53 PM

Norwegian will discontinue all six of its routes from Dublin, Cork, and Shannon to the U.S. and Canada starting next month, a decision the airline called “difficult” but one that proved unavoidable in the light of the prolonged grounding of the Boeing Max and the ongoing review of its network as management redoubles efforts to improve the company’s financial footing.  The latest network cuts will become effective September 15, the company confirmed on Tuesday.

Norwegian commenced low-cost transatlantic services from Dublin Airport in July 2017, launching flights to New York Stewart International Airport and Providence T.F. Green Airport. It later added Shannon to New York Stewart and Providence, and Cork to Providence—all aboard new Boeing Max 8s—and on March 31 this year it launched its first-ever transatlantic route to Canada, a summer seasonal, four-times-weekly service between Dublin and Toronto’s Hamilton International Airport.  Owing to the Max grounding, it operated the new route with Boeing 737-800s.

“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,” explained Norwegian senior vice president of long-haul commercial Matthew Wood. “Since March, we have tirelessly sought to minimize the impact on our customers by hiring (wet leasing) replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America,” he noted. “However, as the return to service date for the 737 Max remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable.” Norwegian’s fleet includes 18 grounded 737 Max 8s.

Wood said the company has entered talks with pilots and cabin crew at its Dublin base, including their respective unions, to ensure that redundancies remain a last resort. “Our 80 Dublin-based administrative staff at Norwegian Air International and Norwegian Group’s asset company, Arctic Aviation Assets, will not be affected by the route closures,” he insisted.

The group’s Irish airline subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), operates the routes from Ireland to the U.S. and Canada with traffic rights for which it fought a protracted battle. NAI applied to serve the U.S. in December 2013 but what should have been a standard procedure became a lengthy process in the wake of strong opposition of American, Delta, and United Airlines, and U.S. labor groups including the Air Line Pilots Association, all of which claimed that Norwegian applied a “flag of convenience” model by establishing headquarters in Ireland rather than in higher-wage Norway. The U.S. Department of Transportation granted the necessary authorizations in December 2016.