Northern Ireland wants flights to United States to return

Northern Ireland is seeking flights to the United States (US)
William Barton /

A Northern Ireland politician has called for flights between the country and the United States (US) to resume.

According to reports by the Belfast Telegraph, Jeffrey Donaldson, a Member of Parliament (MP) and party leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), raised the issue of Northern Ireland lacking direct flights to the US with Special Economic Envoy Joe Kennedy III.

Kennedy was assigned to Northern Ireland by US President Joe Biden in December 2022, with the goal of “advancing economic development and investment opportunities in Northern Ireland to the benefit of all communities as well as strengthening people-to-people ties between the United States and Northern Ireland,” according to a statement by Antony Blinken, the US Secretary of State, at the time.

Politico reported that Kennedy told potential investors that Northern Ireland was “ripe for investment” at the Northern Ireland Investment Summit on September 13, 2023.

According to an announcement from the United Kingdom (UK) government, the event was attended by around 200 investors from several continents, which aims to “turbocharge inward investment into Northern Ireland”.

Politico added that Donaldson was also at the event.

A destination map published by Belfast International Airport (BFS) shows that the only flights to the US are with TUI, which connects BFS with Melbourne Orlando International Airport (MLB). However, those flights only ran between June and July 2023.

When TUI first took off from BFS to MLB in June 2023, the company’s Head of Ireland, Craig Morgan, said that the tour operator would double its capacity to the US with more frequencies to MLB.

Canceled US flights

In November 2016, United Airlines canceled flights to BFS from January 2017. At the time, the airport blamed the European Commission (EC), with Graham Keddie, the managing director (MD) of BFS tweeting that European Union (EU) bureaucrats were “useless” and “faceless”.

Shortly after, the EC told The Irish News that while it did receive a complaint about an alleged breach of state aid rules, it had not made a decision by that time.

“The Northern Irish authorities and United Airlines have themselves decided to end their arrangement,” the EC statement continued.

Meanwhile, in February 2017, Norwegian Air announced its own flights from BFS to New York Stewart International Airport (SWF) and Rhode Island T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) starting July 2017. However, the flights were short-lived, and, in September 2018, the former long-haul low-cost carrier cited low demand and axed the routes from October 2018.

Currently, the only airline that has concrete plans to connect the capital of Northern Ireland with the US is Fly Atlantic, a startup airline that is yet to officially launch flights. The carrier, operating a fleet of either Airbus A321neo or Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, plans to launch in 2025.

While speaking to AeroTime in a previous interview, the founder of Fly Atlantic, Andrew Pyne, said that BFS was like “a secret weapon”, as the airport is “very supportive” and has “very attractive charges”.

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