The high level of air travel tax might be driving Continental Airlines to cancel its Belfast to New York route. The Air Passenger Duty (ADP) adds $86 per passenger on every Belfast flight headed to New York compared with an extra $4 added to the cost of a ticket on a flight from Dublin.
Managing Director for Continental UK and Ireland, Bob Schumacher, said the Belfast route is not making any profits.
"In order to compete with our own routes from Ireland we are paying the difference," Schumacher said.
"We see a direct correlation between the amount of money we are losing on the route and the size of the check we are writing to Westminster.”
Schumacher said that when the company first went to Belfast they felt as if it was a “sensible and strong” plan, but as taxes are continuously raised it is becoming less economically feasible, especially because of its proximity to a different tax regime in which they can “offer lower prices.”
The route is estimated to be worth around $30 million a year to the Northern Ireland economy. Belfast’s connection to New York’s Newark Airport is Northern Ireland's only transatlantic route, a great threat to the area’s economy if Continental does withdraw service on the route.
The survival of George Best Belfast City Airport is also threatened because of the massive hikes in aviation tax. North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr. said he understands there have been proposals to substitute Northern Ireland's only transatlantic route with a Chicago flight out of Dublin but that has yet to be confirmed.
Continental Airlines has denied a claim by an MP that the Irish government promised a huge tax break if it agreed to withdraw its Belfast to New York service
Nick Britton, managing director of Continental's international and corporate communications, claimed there were no plans to discontinue service between Belfast International Airport and New York/Newark, reported the Belfast Telegraph.
He added: “While we will not speculate publicly about future route network expansion, we deny categorically that United Continental has been offered any financial incentives to end its Belfast-New York service.”