Fly Atlantic, New Belfast-Based Transatlantic Airline Concept

Fly Atlantic, New Belfast-Based Transatlantic Airline Concept

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Plans have just been revealed for a new transatlantic ultra low cost carrier. While this one is a bit different than the previous transatlantic ultra low cost carrier concepts we’ve seen, I’m not sure it necessarily has much more of a chance of survival.

Fly Atlantic to launch narrow body transatlantic flights in 2024

Fly Atlantic is an airline startup that hopes to launch transatlantic flights by the summer of 2024. The airline would operate narrow body jets, and would primarily be based out of Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Based on the current plan:

  • Fly Atlantic would lease either Airbus A321neos or Boeing 737 MAXs to operate flights
  • The airline hopes to launch with six planes in 2024, and hopes to have 18 planes by 2028
  • The airline hopes to connect both sides of the Atlantic through Belfast; so the airline would not only serve destinations in the United States and Canada, but would also other destinations in Europe
  • The airline hopes to serve 35 destinations and employ 1,000 people within the first five years
  • The company is currently working on raising money from potential investors, and the project is in the early stages of development
  • The CEO of Fly Atlantic is Andrew Pyne, who does have quite a bit of experience in the airline industry, with airlines ranging from WOW Air, to VietJet Air, to TUS Airways

Here’s how Fly Atlantic’s CEO describes the concept, and the support the concept has received from the local government:

“The Council has been right behind the project from the start. Its commitment and consistent support have been key factors in deciding to base here. We are pleased that the Council shares our vision for Fly Atlantic and for the future of Belfast International as a major hub airport. This is an airline that will deliver greater connectivity and help transmit Northern Ireland’s unique identity to a global audience.” 

Here’s how Alderman Stephen Ross, Mayor of Antrium and Newtownabbey, describes this development:

“The announcement by Fly Atlantic is fantastic news not only for the Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough but for Northern Ireland as a whole. Thanks to Fly Atlantic and Belfast International Airport’s unique partnership we will soon be able to offer direct access to worldwide destinations. Improving connectivity is a key part of our Economic Development Strategy and we are delighted that Fly Atlantic has selected Belfast International Airport to become a hub, offering direct flights to North America, UK, and Europe.”

“This is a key moment for Northern Ireland and is the most significant local aviation announcement in recent history. Belfast International Airport is the ideal hub for Fly Atlantic to base its operations due to its location, drive, and ability to offer unparalleled experience and routes for passengers.”

My take on Fly Atlantic’s business model

I really want to be polite and positive and encouraging here, but… has this business model not failed often enough? As much as I love the airline industry, if I were to look for investors for a concept, it wouldn’t be to start an airline, because that’s a ridiculously tough business. Never mind the fact that the transatlantic low cost carrier business model has failed over and over. And over.

A few thoughts:

  • Sure, the airline can probably make money in the peak summer season, when transatlantic demand is high, but what about winter? Demand craters then…
  • The base in Belfast is a unique angle compared to other airlines that have tried similar things; unfortunately Belfast doesn’t have nearly the demand of other major European cities, making the business model even tougher
  • Admittedly this would be fantastic for Belfast’s economy and connectivity, and I imagine the airline would get a heck of a deal at the airport, and quite a bit of government support; but still, that doesn’t make this business model work
  • While it’s easier to fill a 737 than a 787, narrow body planes have less space for cargo (which has strong demand year-round), and also have more limited range; in other words, the airline likely couldn’t fly to warmer destinations in North America in winter, like Florida, California, Mexico, the Caribbean, etc.
  • I suspect this will be yet another one of those airline startups that never comes to fruition

On the plus side, I kind of dig Fly Atlantic’s livery concept, even if I’m not sure I “get” it?

Rendering of Fly Atlantic Boeing 737 MAX

Bottom line

Fly Atlantic is a new airline startup that hopes to launch in 2024. The plan is for the airline to base A321neos and 737 MAXs in Belfast, and fly them both across the Atlantic and to other destinations in Europe. This concept has failed more often than I can count, but that’s not stopping another company from trying…

What do you make of the Fly Atlantic concept?

Conversations (20)
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  1. Richard McKibbin Guest

    While, as a Northern Irish person, living in the US I am hopeful, but not optimistic about this venture.

    As the article has said this business model has failed in the past. Also, one of major concerns is onward connectivity.

    I like in the Dallas area, a lot of LCCs tend to use secondary airports, Norwegian for example used Stewart International for NYC and Providence for Boston, both these airports are OK if...

    While, as a Northern Irish person, living in the US I am hopeful, but not optimistic about this venture.

    As the article has said this business model has failed in the past. Also, one of major concerns is onward connectivity.

    I like in the Dallas area, a lot of LCCs tend to use secondary airports, Norwegian for example used Stewart International for NYC and Providence for Boston, both these airports are OK if you want to stay in that city, but very limited onward connections to other places in the US.

    Many people using this airline may want to go to other places to n the US, or live in other places in the US/Canada hence just going to small secondary airports is not a great idea.

  2. Scudder Diamond

    The Torrie’s continued masterful management of Brexit could mean this an EU carrier by the time it launches!

  3. Nutts Corner Guest

    One reason to choose Belfast as a base is that the usually punitive long-haul UK Air Passenger Duty doesn't apply for non-stop long-haul flights out of Northern Ireland.

    Two problems:
    1. Dublin doesn't have Air Passenger Duty, so this at best makes the playing field level rather than giving Belfast an advantage.
    2. A passenger booking a through ticket to connect from a GB airport like Stansted or Manchester via Belfast to (for...

    One reason to choose Belfast as a base is that the usually punitive long-haul UK Air Passenger Duty doesn't apply for non-stop long-haul flights out of Northern Ireland.

    Two problems:
    1. Dublin doesn't have Air Passenger Duty, so this at best makes the playing field level rather than giving Belfast an advantage.
    2. A passenger booking a through ticket to connect from a GB airport like Stansted or Manchester via Belfast to (for example) JFK will have to pay the full long-haul UK APD (just like a passenger connecting from Manchester via Dublin to JFK).
    (The workaround for this would be to sell separate tickets MAN-BFS (short-haul APD) and BFS-JFK (zero APD), and link them together through an OTA like Kiwi or Dohop, the way that these OTAs currently offer itineraries combining unrelated airlines. I'm not sure if the UK authorities would really appreciate an airline engaging in this sort of tax-avoidance on its own flights!)

    One big problem is that Dublin (and Shannon) offer US CBP pre-clearance, so you clear US customs and immigration before the flight rather than on arrival, and you can breeze through JFK (or other US airport) like a domestic passenger. This is a huge benefit which can save a lot of time and hassle. Belfast doesn't have this.

  4. D3kingg Guest

    Belfast is in Great Britain. End of discussion. I would fly this airline .

    1. AerLingus105 Guest

      Belfast is in Northern Ireland. It is in the UK but not in Great Britain.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      First, adding nonsense like "period!" and "end of discussion!" do nothing to amplify your point, especially when it's clear that you don't know what you're talking about.

      Second, the full name is "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland," so let's see if you can figure out your error..............

  5. vlcnc Guest

    People really need to stop trying to recreated Icelandair again and again, we have two of those successful ones in Icelandair and Aer Lingus and there isn't a market for anymore of those. Just stop it.

  6. Ben H. Guest

    I believe Thomas Cook and VS operated some flights to South Florida and CUN back in the day and with those TATL flights seemingly gone, this could probably work in Jul/Aug and maybe even Dec/Jan. But I don't see how they could sustain O/D traffic year round nor be competitive enough to go side by side with legacy carriers and LCs/ULCCs like Norse or Level all while remaining profitable.

    Also, regarding the planes used there...

    I believe Thomas Cook and VS operated some flights to South Florida and CUN back in the day and with those TATL flights seemingly gone, this could probably work in Jul/Aug and maybe even Dec/Jan. But I don't see how they could sustain O/D traffic year round nor be competitive enough to go side by side with legacy carriers and LCs/ULCCs like Norse or Level all while remaining profitable.

    Also, regarding the planes used there seem to be conflicting reports of using A321s or A321neos, in which case if the latter were to be used, range should suffice (even with a high-density configuration) to fly to Florida/ many Caribbean islands.

  7. Bagoly Guest

    The closest comparison would seem to be WOW, especially if connecting smaller airports at each end, although there is a fair bit of demand for holidaying in Iceland.
    Galway is only a hour further from Belfast than it is from Dublin.
    BA neglects passengers outside London, so feed from Bristol, Liverpool etc would make sense.
    If there was not already an airline called Aer Lingus....

  8. Alex Guest

    There is definitely demand out of Belfast to warm-weather destinations in the Canaries and Azores in the shoulder seasons, which could use a 737. Morocco and other places are also promising. These same 737s could turn around and fly passengers farther into Europe. Not having at least A330s on hand is a shame, but I doubt this airline wants to go the way of Norwegian. Using 737s is a better way to control costs.

  9. JohnHam Member

    Low Air Passenger Duty so yay

  10. Jance Guest

    Set up for all the staff working on Game of Thrones spin-off episodes.

    Well, except for the higher-ups, who would get business class at a minimum, or their own Gulfstreams.

    (Most GOT is filmed in/near Belfast, except for occasional far flung locations.)

  11. Josh Guest

    Lol….cargo demand to BFS is pretty anemic. In order to be attractive, they’d have to subsidize connecting truck service to DUB/LHR/MAN, which ain’t cheap or fast. And good luck competing with IAG/VS/AA.

    And when was the last time you heard a non-native of Northern Ireland float the idea of a summer week in Belfast? Will Nationalist NI passengers be willing to sit next to Unionist? (Somewhat akin to the idea of Israelis and Palestinians...

    Lol….cargo demand to BFS is pretty anemic. In order to be attractive, they’d have to subsidize connecting truck service to DUB/LHR/MAN, which ain’t cheap or fast. And good luck competing with IAG/VS/AA.

    And when was the last time you heard a non-native of Northern Ireland float the idea of a summer week in Belfast? Will Nationalist NI passengers be willing to sit next to Unionist? (Somewhat akin to the idea of Israelis and Palestinians sitting next to each other on a long flight…)

    There is literally no market demand in pax or cargo for this idea.

    1. DKB Guest

      Ridiculous comment, the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland get by with each other every day just fine, and couldn't care less what persuasion the person beside them is.

    2. Santos Guest

      dorm-room analysts need to keep out of real-world situations

    3. Alex Guest

      The idea is to connect passengers to other points in Europe. They could fly cargo there as well. I’m sure they would also do well at Stansted or Manchester.

    4. Me Guest

      Josh, your ignorance of local Northern Irish people's attitudes to each other is out-dated at best and plain wrong in these times.

  12. DCAWABN Guest

    The tail art kind of looks like DNA sequencing.

    1. Jordan Gold

      The answer to it all...

  13. Never In Doubt Guest

    Their business plan seems to be “How much money can we suck out of the taxpayers”.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

AerLingus105 Guest

Belfast is in Northern Ireland. It is in the UK but not in Great Britain.

3
Richard McKibbin Guest

While, as a Northern Irish person, living in the US I am hopeful, but not optimistic about this venture. As the article has said this business model has failed in the past. Also, one of major concerns is onward connectivity. I like in the Dallas area, a lot of LCCs tend to use secondary airports, Norwegian for example used Stewart International for NYC and Providence for Boston, both these airports are OK if you want to stay in that city, but very limited onward connections to other places in the US. Many people using this airline may want to go to other places to n the US, or live in other places in the US/Canada hence just going to small secondary airports is not a great idea.

1
Nutts Corner Guest

One reason to choose Belfast as a base is that the usually punitive long-haul UK Air Passenger Duty doesn't apply for non-stop long-haul flights out of Northern Ireland. Two problems: 1. Dublin doesn't have Air Passenger Duty, so this at best makes the playing field level rather than giving Belfast an advantage. 2. A passenger booking a through ticket to connect from a GB airport like Stansted or Manchester via Belfast to (for example) JFK will have to pay the full long-haul UK APD (just like a passenger connecting from Manchester via Dublin to JFK). (The workaround for this would be to sell separate tickets MAN-BFS (short-haul APD) and BFS-JFK (zero APD), and link them together through an OTA like Kiwi or Dohop, the way that these OTAs currently offer itineraries combining unrelated airlines. I'm not sure if the UK authorities would really appreciate an airline engaging in this sort of tax-avoidance on its own flights!) One big problem is that Dublin (and Shannon) offer US CBP pre-clearance, so you clear US customs and immigration before the flight rather than on arrival, and you can breeze through JFK (or other US airport) like a domestic passenger. This is a huge benefit which can save a lot of time and hassle. Belfast doesn't have this.

1
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