“1000’s stranded as funds airline ceases operation” – that was the headline in The Impartial in March 2019 when Wow Air closed down.
I point out the unlucky demise of the Icelandic airline, which went bust to the tune of £150m, as a result of a brand new enterprise, Fly Atlantic, appears to have the same marketing strategy.
Wow Air’s technique was to funnel passengers from factors throughout the UK and the Continental into an island hub on the perimeter of northwestern Europe. Planes would contact down from Edinburgh, Gatwick, Amsterdam, Lyon and Barcelona, discharge passenger right into a transit space then distribute them to North American cities equivalent to Boston, New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Montreal and Toronto.
Fly Atlantic is planning one thing very comparable, beginning in summer time 2024.
The island hub this time will likely be Belfast Worldwide, the most important airport in Northern Eire.
Andrew Pyne, the airline’s chief govt, stated: “Our imaginative and prescient is of Belfast as a powerful aviation hub linking Europe and North America.
“The dearth of direct transatlantic air providers has clearly been an obstacle to Northern Eire’s financial and tourism improvement, which we now intend to take away.
“The challenge is usually a gamechanger. That is an airline that can ship larger connectivity and assist transmit Northern Eire’s distinctive id to a worldwide viewers.”
Tremendous phrases – however why ought to Fly Atlantic work when Wow Air failed?
The prices ought to be considerably decrease: an airline primarily based in Iceland has to pay Icelandic-scale wages, that are greater than these in Northern Eire. For a lot of the potential hyperlinks, Belfast gives a extra direct flightpath than Reykjavik – saving 300 miles on a London-New York jaunt.
Northern Eire’s inhabitants is 5 occasions greater than that of Iceland, which ought to assist with native demand.
But the pitfalls outweigh the benefits, I worry – beginning with competitors. Wow Air was competing towards Icelandair for transatlantic connecting visitors. There aren’t any direct rivals for a Belfast-based operation. However one of many nice aviation success tales over the previous few years has been Dublin airport – and particularly its transatlantic providing.
The Irish capital is one in all few cities which might provide “pre-clearance” for the US – whereby passengers cross via American border formalities whereas nonetheless on Irish turf. After landing within the US, there isn’t any have to manner. The method at Dublin airport takes (in my expertise) a few minutes however can doubtlessly save a few hours on arrival.
Dublin has a gravitational pull on individuals from Northern Eire who will fortunately commerce a few hours’ additional journey overland for an honest fare, a large alternative of locations and the possibility to swerve US border controls on arrival.
The airport for the Irish capital can also be seen as a possible tax saver by British travellers: whereas long-haul departures from Belfast are exempt from Air Passenger Obligation, anybody connecting from Nice Britain must pay £87 from subsequent April except they pause in Belfast for a minimal 24 hours. And if Belfast began to attract an excessive amount of visitors away from Dublin, Aer Lingus may are available in with some compellingly low fares in a bid to see off the upstart.
Assuming Fly Atlantic can procure some funding and a few planes, early summer time 2024 may very well be stuffed with bargains for travellers as they play off the fares from Belfast and Dublin. However such fares wars don’t appear to final too lengthy earlier than somebody retires damage – and it’s hardly ever the incumbent.
I hope my pessimism is misplaced. A nation on the far northwest of Europe deserves to be properly related to America, and Fly Atlantic’s plan would do exactly that. Allow us to hope the enterprise generates the proper of wow issue.