From summer 2024, a “game-changing” new low-cost transatlantic airline intends to launch flights from Northern Ireland.
Once fully operational by 2030, Fly Atlantic intends to serve 35 destinations from Belfast, creating 1,000 jobs for the airline itself as well as up to 21,000 jobs in the tourism and other industries.
The airline has ambitious intentions to establish direct services to North America, other regions of the UK, and continental Europe. The airline will initially run six aircraft at its Antrim base, rising to a fleet of 18 by 2028.
There is still a lack of information available regarding Fly Atlantic, including its investors and financing arrangements.
However, preliminary studies indicate that utilizing narrow-body Boeing or Airbus aircraft, operations could begin in 2024 from Belfast International airport.
Aircraft are being discussed, with the Boeing 737 Max and the Airbus A321 being the options.
Earlier in 2023, according to a Fly Atlantic spokeswoman, the startup would commence the process of getting an air operators’ certificate (AOC).
Further information regarding the following phases and backers will be released “in due course.”
Despite “heavy competition” from other airports in the UK and Ireland, Belfast International Airport was chosen as the base airport.
Andrew Pyne, the chief executive of Fly Atlantic and a seasoned pilot, said: “Our vision is of Belfast as a strong aviation hub linking Europe and North America.
“The lack of direct transatlantic air services has clearly been an impediment to Northern Ireland’s economic and tourism development, which we now intend to remove.
“The project can be a game changer. We will be offering affordable fares with brand new aircraft.
“We already have offices at the airport and will now be building out the infrastructure to support the airline’s launch. We start recruiting for the team early in 2023.”
He added: “We looked at many options throughout the UK and Ireland. Belfast International and [owner] 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.”
Since 1979, Pyne has worked for numerous airlines all over the world. In 2017, he spent nine months working for the now-defunct Icelandic low-cost airline Wow Air.
Graham Keddie, managing director of Belfast International, stated: “We welcome the announcement by Fly Atlantic and look forward to them bringing this project to fruition as it would have very real economic benefits for Northern Ireland’s economy and would further enhance our international connectivity”.
The plans emerged as data from Aer Lingus showed that the Irish carrier has raised the number of flights to the US by more than 200% since Washington reopened borders from the pandemic 12 months ago.
The carrier operated 141 flights in November 2021 into the US, but this has jumped to 473 flights this November.
Capacity has been raised by almost 90,000 seats year-on-year as Aer Lingus returns to pre-pandemic flight levels for the forthcoming Thanksgiving holiday period.
Aer Lingus will operate 16 routes to the US by next summer, bringing back a Dublin-Hartford service in addition to new flights between the Irish capital and Cleveland.
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