Northern Ireland’s sole transatlantic air service has been given a temporary reprieve.

Airport news for Flights,Belfast on 02/05/2011.

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The only transatlantic air route serving Northern Ireland has been given a temporary reprieve but the route’s future is by no means assured. The route between Belfast and New York’s Newark airport is operated by Continental Airlines.

The popular route is currently worth in the region of £20 million to the Belfast economy. The route was initially threatened by the imposition of a massive hike in the Air Passenger Duty (APD) the Treasury introduced last November.

The increase in APD meant that every passenger headed for the USA would have to pay at least £60. As a result, many travellers chose to flight out of Dublin Airport, which has a air passenger levy of just €3.

Now, however, the route has been given a temporary reprieve. The announcement follows heavy talks between Belfast International Airport (BIA), Continental Airlines, ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive, and officials at the UK Treasury.

The route currently serves some 100,000 travellers a year. For now, both Continental and BIA are reportedly monitoring traffic levels on the route.

Continental is expected to make its final decision on the route’s future after watching passenger traffic during the summer. Airport bosses are hoping they will be able to use the break to cultivate more long-haul and transatlantic routes.

Officials at BIA are hoping they can attract airlines flying to Chicago, Toronto, Boston and Dubai. The cost of the APD, however, will continue to remain a fundamental issue to any progress on such air services.

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