United Airlines will cease flying between Belfast International and New York Newark with effect from January 9, according to a BBC report.
The route was started many years ago by Continental (later acquired by United), and is operated with a narrow-body B757.
It’s a sad day for Belfast’s main airport which will now be losing its only regular long-haul route.
In previous years United had threatened to withdraw the service because it was considered to be underperforming.
And as a result the Northern Ireland authorities were allowed to reduce the level of APD. It meant that direct long-haul flights would now carry the same level of APD as a short-haul flight.
Furthermore United was receiving £9 million in funding from the Stormont Executive to support the route.
But this funding has now been blocked by the European Commission on state-aid grounds.
Many travellers from the area choose to drive or take the train to Dublin airport and fly transatlantic from there.
Why? Because there is no APD from Dublin and because there is a choice of airlines and transatlantic routings.
Quoted by the BBC, Belfast’s MD Graham Keddie said, “To block a support package for an airline that delivers direct access to the United States is almost beyond comprehension.”
“This is a bad day for the executive and a bad day for Northern Ireland, which is still finding its feet after a generation lost to conflict. The United service was well supported and recently carried its millionth passenger.”
“We have worked tirelessly to safeguard the service but Brussels took a different view, believing the support package gave United an unfair advantage over services from elsewhere.”