T.F. Green Airport will have no transatlantic connection following Norwegians departure – The Providence Journal

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T.F. Green Airport will have no transatlantic connection following Norwegians departure – The Providence Journal



Patrick Anderson Journal Staff Writer patrickanderso_

Tuesday

Aug 13, 2019 at 10:57 AM
Aug 13, 2019 at 9:34 PM

The low-cost carrier cited the safety-related grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, the type of plane Norwegian designed its routes from Providence to utilize, for making them “no longer commercially viable.”

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Norwegian Air is ending all flights to T.F. Green Airport next month, the airline announced Tuesday, leaving the airport without a transatlantic connection and on the brink of having no international flights at all.

The last Norwegian flight from Providence to Dublin, Ireland, will depart Sept. 14, the low-cost carrier said in a news release. Passengers who booked tickets on that route after Sept. 14 can get a full refund or the option to re-book on other Norwegian flights.

The low-cost carrier cited the safety-related grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX, the type of plane Norwegian designed its routes from Providence to utilize, for making them “no longer commercially viable.”

“As the airline moves from growth to profitability, we have conducted a comprehensive review of our transatlantic operations between North America and Ireland and concluded that these routes are no longer commercially viable considering the circumstances,” Matthew Robert Wood, Norwegian senior vice president commercial long-haul and new markets, said in the news release. “Compounded by the global grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and the continued uncertainty of its return to service, this has led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue all six routes from U.S. and Canada to Dublin, Cork and Shannon [Ireland].”

Norwegian first touched down at T.F. Green to great fanfare in 2017, launching flights to five cities in Ireland and the United Kingdom and making Providence the New England regional base of an Irish affiliate.

Rhode Island officials picked up Norwegian executives in a helicopter on the State House lawn for an aerial tour of the area as part of the state’s courtship of the airline.

T.F. Green beat out rival airports in Hartford, Connecticut, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for the Norwegian mini-hub, which hired Rhode Island-based pilots and flight crews. As part of the deal, the airport waived landing fees for two years, worth $1.1 million, and reimbursed Norwegian $2.3 million in marketing expenses related to the new routes.

Later that year Norwegian added seasonal flights from Providence to Bergen, Norway, and the Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, giving it 18 total flights each week out of Providence.

Many of these nonstops were short-lived. The Norway flights didn’t return in 2018, and the Caribbean routes were also canceled that year, along with Edinburgh, Scotland.

Even before the March grounding of the 737 MAX in March following two deadly crashes, Norwegian appeared to be rethinking its commitment to T.F. Green.

In January, it closed the bases at Green and Stewart International Airport in New York, laying off an unknown number of pilots and flight attendants. 

With the 737 MAX grounding, Norwegian scrambled to find replacement aircraft and slashed its T.F. Green routes, leaving just Dublin before Tuesday’s announcement, which also calls for the end of flights to Stewart and Hamilton, Ontario.  

The loss of Norwegian in September will leave T.F. Green with only one international destination, Air Canada’s daily service to Toronto, and those seasonal flights are slated to end for the year on Oct. 8.

It’s unclear whether the loss of flights will affect U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilities at T.F. Green, where the federal government spent $8.8 million to upgrade the inspection station in 2017.

In May, Sun Country Airlines announced a new route to the Dominican Republic, but last week abandoned it before it was supposed to start in November.

Bill Fischer, spokesman for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation, said Norwegian’s Providence-to-Dublin route carried around 125,000 passengers between the launch in summer 2017 and the MAX grounding in the spring, roughly 85% of available seats. That should help the airport attract another airline.

“There’s been a global economic impact to Norwegian from the 737 MAX situation. That said, the Dublin route was an extremely successful route and Rhode Islanders supported that route,” Fischer said. “We have been in ongoing discussions for past few months with aviation partners and are hopeful to make some announcements in the future that will make greater travel options for Rhode Islanders.”

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