“Hundreds stranded as funds airline ceases operation” – that was the headline in The Unbiased 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 related, beginning in summer time 2024.
The island hub this time shall be Belfast Worldwide, the most important airport in Northern Eire.
Andrew Pyne, the airline’s chief government, mentioned: “Our imaginative and prescient is of Belfast as a powerful aviation hub linking Europe and North America.
“The shortage of direct transatlantic air companies has clearly been an obstacle to Northern Eire’s financial and tourism improvement, which we now intend to take away.
“The venture generally is a gamechanger. That is an airline that may ship higher connectivity and assist transmit Northern Eire’s distinctive identification to a world viewers.”
Fantastic phrases – however why ought to Fly Atlantic work when Wow Air failed?
The prices must 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 provides 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 concern – beginning with competitors. Wow Air was competing in opposition to Icelandair for transatlantic connecting site visitors. There are not 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 considered one of few cities which may supply “pre-clearance” for the US – whereby passengers cross by means of American border formalities whereas nonetheless on Irish turf. After landing within the US, there isn’t any have to approach. 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 folks from Northern Eire who will fortunately commerce a few hours’ further 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 be seen as a possible tax saver by British travellers: whereas long-haul departures from Belfast are exempt from Air Passenger Responsibility, anybody connecting from Nice Britain must pay £87 from subsequent April until they pause in Belfast for a minimal 24 hours. And if Belfast began to attract an excessive amount of site visitors away from Dublin, Aer Lingus may are available 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 could possibly be filled 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 harm – and it’s hardly ever the incumbent.
I hope my pessimism is misplaced. A nation on the far northwest of Europe deserves to be effectively linked to America, and Fly Atlantic’s plan would do exactly that. Allow us to hope the enterprise generates the correct of wow issue.