Edinburgh’s hopes of becoming Scotland’s low-cost transatlantic gateway have been dashed – at least for now.

The Scotsman reports that Norwegian has or will be dropping all three transatlantic routes it operates from the Scottish capital.

Although it had been expected that Norwegian would be closing two of its transatlantic routes from Edinburgh. Today’s news must come as something of a shock to both the airport (which aspires to become a long-haul gateway) and the Scottish Government.

Today’s news also comes soon after Norwegian announced it was cancelling its London Gatwick to Singapore service in January. (Online news September 9)

Norwegian to axe Singapore in favour of Rio de Janeiro

Transatlantic flights to Bradley (Connecticut) were cancelled earlier this year while Providence (Rhode Island) were due to cease in October.

Now the final route, one to Stewart in New York state (about 60 miles from Manhattan),  is now expected to cease at the end of March 2019.  (Currently no bookings are possible from that time).

It’s a blow to those airlines who were hoping to open less busy long-haul routes with the new generation of narrow-bodied aircraft.

Norwegian is operating Boeing’s latest B737 MAX8. It was configured economy class only and, because it was cheaper to purchase and cheaper to operate, Norwegian hoped for profitability.

It appears this hasn’t been the case.

Norwegian blames the high rates of APD (Air Passenger Duty) for its decision.

Quoted in The Scotsman, a spokesperson for Norwegian said “The US routes had been launched with the prospect of a reduction in APD which was unfortunately postponed by the Scottish government and this has led us to fully withdraw our transatlantic services.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh airport told The Scotsman, “This is a desperately disappointing decision entirely caused by a complete failure of the Scottish Government to live up to its commitment to reduce the tax paid by Scots travellers.”

A Norwegian executive told Business Traveller, “The [passenger] loads on Edinburgh were fine.  The problem was the cost of operating the route versus the yield [revenue per seat]”

Other factors might be Norwegian’s use of a less convenient airport to New York Manhattan (when rivals like Delta and United arrive at JFK and Newark) and today’s higher fuel prices.

It is to be hoped that Norwegian will retain its transatlantic services out of Belfast especially as the authorities secured a much lower rate of APD in order to compete with long-haul flights ex-Dublin (which has no APD).

There will be much disappointment in Northern Ireland were Norwegian to cancel the region’s only non-stop link with the US.

  • Norwegian also confirmed to The Scotsman that it would concentrate short-haul services more on Scandinavia (these are more lucrative) so Barcelona and Tenerife will cease in March 2019.