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Norwegian Air pulls out of Ireland in latest transatlantic retreat

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A Norwegian Airlines plane at Dublin Airport. Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Norwegian Air (NAS.OL) has confirmed that it will discontinue transatlantic flights from Ireland this September, in the latest sign of difficulties for Europe’s third-largest budget airline.

Several thousand customers will be affected by the closure of the “unsustainable” routes from Dublin, Shannon, and Cork, Norwegian Air said.

The airline continues to fly transatlantic routes from London Gatwick and Manchester.

The move follows weaker-than-expected revenue growth for the airline in July, and after it announced in 2018 that it was planning to slow its rapid growth and trim costs in order to save cash and curb operational losses.

“As the airline moves from growth to profitability, we have conducted a comprehensive review of our transatlantic operations between North America and Ireland and concluded that these routes are no longer commercially viable considering the circumstances,” the airline said.

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In September, Norwegian Air discontinued transatlantic flights from Edinburgh and Belfast, pointing to the Scottish government’s failure to cut taxes.

The airline on Tuesday, however, said that the grounding of the troubled Boeing 737 Max aircraft was partly to blame for the pullback from Ireland.

“Since March, we have tirelessly sought to minimise the impact on our customers by hiring replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America,” Norwegian Air said.

“However, as the return to service date for the 737 Max remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable.”

Non-stop flights from Shannon and Cork has been suspended in March following the plane’s grounding.

Norwegian Air’s model hinges on using newer types of aircraft, such as the 737 Max, to fly to lesser-known North American airports.

In July, Norwegian Air celebrated five years of long-haul flights from London Gatwick, which the airport said had precipitated a quadrupling in similar low-cost offerings from the airport.

The airline had offered daily flights from Dublin to New York Stewart International Airport, which is 60 miles north of Manhattan, and flew several times a week from the Irish capital to Rhode Island and Ontario.

Flights from the three Irish airports were introduced in July 2017. The move is a particular blow to Cork Airport, where Norwegian Air was the only transatlantic carrier.

The airport said it was in talks with other airlines to introduce a new transatlantic route.

In addition to flights from London and Manchester, Norwegian Air still flies from airports in Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm, and Oslo to 14 other US cities.