Norwegian Could Solve Canadian Service Headache for Belfast

Northern Ireland could well be in line for a new, much sought-after and long awaited direct service to Canada, after a break of almost a decade

Norwegian, who operate two services to the US direct from Belfast, is aiming to add Canada to its route map after applying to the Canadian Transportation Agency to launch operations to the country from July.

Norwegian have not revealed potential routes, but a new Northern Ireland service would certainly tick many of the boxes, with strong, existing market potential between the Province and Canada, and no direct service Northern Ireland-Canada service for the past eight years.

At one time Belfast supported three flights to Canada direct from Belfast International, and Toronto has long been targeted by International Airport route development executives as a priority, must-have destination.

Northern Ireland tourism chiefs have also made no secret of their desire to link the Province with Canada, traditionally a top tourist attraction for travellers on both sides of the |Atlantic with a strong VFR (Visiting Friends and Relatives) market.

The application by Norwegian is reported to be seeking “an exemption to permit it to sell, cause to be sold or publicly offer for sale in Canada a scheduled international service” between the country and member states of the European Community, in the absence of a licence.

It adds that Norwegian has applied for a scheduled international licence but, as the application is not yet complete, an exemption has been requested so commercial operations can begin on July 23, 2018.

The application to the Canadian Transportation Agency does not list potential destinations in Canada but an airport destination in the Toronto/east coast region would be most likely.

A Norwegian spokesperson, speaking to Routesonline, said: “As an ambitious airline with a huge aircraft order, it’s no secret that we have plans to expand to other parts of the world.

“While Canada is an interesting market, it’s too early to confirm route plans and we still seek full approval from the Canadian authorities to commence services.”

Norwegian has been a major force in the European aviation industry in recent years, adding large amounts of low-cost capacity and rapidly increasing the number of it routes operates, particularly to transatlantic markets.

In 2017, it added 15 destinations to its network as it continued to push its long-haul low-cost strategy, flying primarily from the UK and Ireland to secondary airports in the US. From London Gatwick the airline added Denver and Seattle-Tacoma, alongside routes from Belfast to New York Stewart and Providence. It also recently added additional capacity from Dublin to New York.