“Hello, I’m Jeff Smisek,” anyone who has flown on our Belfast-Newark service has been greeted by the dulcet tones of Mr Smisek, Chief Executive of United Airlines as he welcomes you on board. If like me you actually pay attention to these cheesy videos and use this route regularly, you will be a bit disappointed as the decision has been taken to halt flights between Belfast and Newark from January 6 to March 11th was announced yesterday.
The airline has carried over 830,000 people on the route since its inauguration in 2005 and is currently one of the most popular from Northern Ireland. In fact, less than a month ago United’s Managing Director of sales in the UK and Ireland, Bob Schumacher said
We are pleased with the success of our Belfast-New York/Newark service and thank our customers for their support over the past nine years. As the only trans-Atlantic carrier serving Belfast United offers customers a convenient way of flying direct to New York, with onward connections to over 300 destinations across the Americas.
Normally this is an issue that I would normally whack the Executive over, but in fairness to them, they have taken steps to placate the cost issue for United cutting the Air Passenger Duty in 2011.
So, is this just part of an incremental exit for United from Aldergrove? Should we just give up the ghost on transatlantic and see Dublin as our third airport?
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs