In a series of blows for international inbound tourism, Hainan Airlines has axed its Dublin to Shenzen route while Norwegian Air has axed all its transatlantic North American routes from Ireland.
Just a year after launching to much fanfare the first direct flights between Ireland and mainland China, Hainan has axed its service to high-tech hub Shenzen. The route began in February and was operating twice weekly. The final flight will occur on 2nd September.
The airline has also cancelled its Dublin to Beijing direct service, as well as its Dublin-Edinburgh-Beijing route. The former’s final flight will also be 2nd September, with the latter’s final flight taking off on 13th October.
There have been warning signs from the routes for some time. Just four months after launching as a four times weekly service, the Dublin-Edinburgh-Beijing route was reduced to twice weekly.
Cathay Pacific operates a direct service from Dublin to Hong Kong that is unaffected by the announcement.
The loss of a direct service to China will be a heavy blow to tourism chiefs, who are betting big on the emerging outbound Chinese tourism market. Tourism Ireland has aspirations of welcome over 200,000 Chinese tourists to Ireland by 2025 and direct air routes are crucial to achieving this goal.
Norwegian Air meanwhile has said its low-cost transatlantic routes linking Dublin, Cork and Shannon to various cities on the east coast of the US are “No longer commercially viable”.
The airline singled out the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft as a significant factor in the decision.
The routes are discontinued as of 15th September this year.
“Since March, we have tirelessly sought to minimise the impact on our customers by hiring replacement aircraft to operate services between Ireland and North America. However, as the return to service date for the 737 MAX remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable,” said Matthew Wood, SVP Long-Haul Commercial at Norwegian.
Norwegian’s 86 cabin crew and 48 pilots at its Dublin base are currently being engaged with to ensure that redundancies remain a last resort.
Affected customers are being offered alternative travel arrangements and full refunds if they no longer wish to travel. Existing Norwegian services from Dublin to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen will remain operational.