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Sen. Bell Seeks RI Airport Corporation Review After Norwegian Cuts Flights

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] RI Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks on the economic benefits of direct year-round flights from RI to Ireland in 2017. Seated from left are From left, Iftikhar Ahmad, RIAC president, Anders Lindström, Norwegian Air.

[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] RI Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks on the economic benefits of direct year-round flights from RI to Ireland in 2017. Seated from left are From left, Iftikhar Ahmad, RIAC president, Anders Lindström, Norwegian Air.
[CREDIT: Rob Borkowski] RI Gov. Gina Raimondo speaks on the economic benefits of direct year-round flights from RI to Ireland in 2017. Seated from left are From left, Iftikhar Ahmad, RIAC president, Anders Lindström, Norwegian Air.
PROVIDENCE — Two years after Norwegian Airlines began flights to Ireland from TF Green Airport, the company reports it’s cancelled them due to the prolonged grounding of the Boeing 737 Max, prompting Sen. Samuel W. Bell (D-Dist. 5, Providence) to call for a review of the RI Airport Corporation’s administration.

On Aug. 13, Norwegian announced it will discontinue its transatlantic routes, originally served by the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, by September.

In March, Boeing 737 Max airplanes were grounded globally  by airline companies and officials  after two of the aircraft crashed Oct. 29 and March 10, killing all passengers. Investigators in Indonesia and Ethiopia, where the crashes occurred, are focusing on faulty sensors and a flight control system designed to push the nose down in the air, according to a report from CNET.com.

Since the grounding, Norwegian has been using replacement aircraft for flights between North America and Ireland, said Matthew Robert Wood, Senior Vice President Commercial Long-Haul and New Markets at Norwegian.

“However, as the return to service date for the 737 MAX remains uncertain, this solution is unsustainable,” Wood said.

“While it is certainly the case that a reliance on unproven technology was a foreseeable issue with Norwegian’s TF Green business model, it is clear that the issues are far more systemic.  Norwegian closed the base and canceled some flights before the temporary 737 Max grounding,” Bell said.

Norwegian publicly admitted to Forbes that the Ireland routes were unprofitable to run with a 737 Max, Bell said, linking to the story.  The 737 Max grounding is temporary, and Norwegian does not seem to have any plans to renew service when it ends later this year, Bell added.

“The Airport Corporation spent more than $2 million to advertise for Norwegian Air, and now those jobs are disappearing after only two years,” said Bell.

Bell said presidential candidate Hillary Clinton spoke against letting Norwegian operate in the U.S. due to poor labor practices in 2016.

“The Norwegian Airlines debacle follows the collapse of the Dominican Republic route from Sun Country Airlines before a single plane took off from T.F. Green.  Like Norwegian, Sun Country is a controversial airline, and these problems were predictable.  At the time the agreement with T.F. Green began, Sun Country was reeling from an international flight cancelation scandal where hundreds of passengers were stranded in Mexico with no way to return to Minnesota. The extensive cutting of routes by more reputable airlines like Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines raises yet more questions about the Airport Corporation’s management performance,” Bell said.

Bell also questioned what he characterized as attempts to raise revenue through high fees on ride-sharing corporations like Uber and Lyft, resulting in disruptions to those services and significant inconveniences for many airport visitors.

“I have neighbors who have lost their jobs, and airport visitors are continuously frustrated, whether by the disruption to ride-sharing services or by highly publicized routes being eliminated shortly after being introduced.  It is evident that T.F. Green is experiencing several problems.  I hope that a review of management performance will help lead to reforms and improved outcomes,” Bell said.

The RIAC did not respond to WarwickPost.com’s request for comment on Bell’s criticisms.

Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of WarwickPost.com. Contact him at editor@warwickpost.com with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.IF YOU CAN'T READ THIS ARTICLE, AND YOU'D LIKE TO, YOU'LL NEED TO SUBSCRIBE (TOP RIGHT MENU) FOR $1.50 PER MONTH OR $15 YEARLY, OR LOG IN.