Editor’s Note: Sign up for Unlocking the World, CNN Travel’s weekly newsletter. Get news about destinations opening, inspiration for future adventures, plus the latest in aviation, food and drink, where to stay and other travel developments.
Hot on the heels of Norwegian, WOW and Play, a new low-cost airline is promising to bring back budget transatlantic flights.
Fly Atlantic this week announced plans to start operating in 2024. The new budget airline will be based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. As well as operating short-haul European flights, it plans to enter the transatlantic market with low-cost flights from Belfast to the US and Canada.
Of course, its main problem will be that the transatlantic airline market is notoriously difficult to turn a profit. Of the trio it seeks to emulate, two failed to make low-cost transatlantic flights work. Norwegian killed off its long-haul routes during the pandemic, while Wow Air went bankrupt in 2019. The transatlantic route graveyard also includes Primera Air, La Compagnie’s UK-US business class route, and even British Airways, which failed to resurrect its all business class flights from London City Airport to New York post-pandemic.
The transatlantic low-cost market is so difficult that in 2020, Icelandic artist Oddur Eysteinn Friðriksson even created a fake airline, MOM Air, as an art installation. MOM Air received 6,000 booking requests for its mooted Europe-US network in the two weeks before the artist confirmed it was a hoax.
Fly Atlantic plans to fly to 35 destinations from its Belfast base, with tickets going on sale in early 2024. It hopes to corner the market in low-cost connections between Europe and the US and Canada.
It’ll start with a small fleet of six aircraft – likely to be Airbus A321s or the Boeing 737 MAX, with the airline saying it is currently in talks with both manufacturers. It plans to expand to 18 aircraft within the first four years.
At the moment, there are no direct transatlantic flights from Belfast. Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, is a popular departure point to the US, thanks to facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports that allow travelers to clear US border control before taking off. But as Northern Ireland is part of the UK, it looks unlikely that this would be a possibility – the preclearance facility is currently only available in six countries worldwide, of which Ireland is one.
Andrew Pyne, Fly Atlantic CEO, said in a statement that the airline has a “vision… of Belfast as a strong aviation hub linking Europe and North America” and promised to offer affordable fares with brand new aircraft.”
He added: “We looked at many options throughout the UK and Ireland. Belfast International and Vinci stood out in terms of the facilities that they offered us and by their enthusiasm for and commitment to making this project a reality. Northern Ireland has a proud aviation and engineering history, and we are delighted to be able to build on this tradition as we develop the airline and its support functions.”
The airline already has offices at the airport, and hopes to create 1,000 jobs.
Top image credit: Fly Atlantic