United drops Belfast-Newark route following EC state aid ruling

United drops Belfast-Newark route following EC state aid ruling

United Airlines is to drop the only a transatlantic air link between Northern Ireland and the US.

The final departure from Belfast international airport to Newark is scheduled for January 9.

United said it had taken the decision because of the route's poor financial performance.

"We will contact customers with bookings for flights beyond those dates to provide refunds and re-accommodate where possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused," the airline added.

But the airport blamed a ruling by the European Commission to block a funding package to the airline on state aid grounds for the abandonment of the route.

Managing director Graham Keddie said: “To block a support package for an airline that delivers direct access to the US is almost beyond comprehension.

“This is a vital link for business and losing it will be a body blow to executive ministers who use it to promote Northern Ireland to would-be investors from the US.

“The adverse impact is all the greater, coming as it does ahead of the crucial decision to make Northern Ireland more competitive with reduced corporation tax designed to stimulate inward investment.”

He added that the United service was “well supported” and only recently carried its millionth passenger.

“We have worked tirelessly to safeguard the service, but Brussels took a different view, believing the support package gave United an unfair advantage over services from elsewhere,” said Keddie.

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