Norwegian to stop flying from Ireland to U.S. and Canada

FILE PHOTO: Norwegian Air headquarters in Fornebu, Norway, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian Air NWC.OL will stop flying from Ireland to the United States and Canada from mid-September as the routes had become commercially unviable, the company said on Tuesday.

Europe's third-largest budget carrier had to lease replacement planes to service the routes since March due to the global grounding of the Boeing BA.N 737 MAX, a more costly option than flying its own planes.

Having late last year announced plans to curb its rapid capacity growth and cut costs to stem losses, Norwegian more recently warned that the grounding of the 737 MAX, which makes up 11% of its fleet, may hamper its plans to return to profitability this year..

“Compounded by the global grounding of the 737 MAX and the continued uncertainty of its return to service, this has led us to make the difficult decision to discontinue all six routes from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to the U.S. and Canada from 15 September 2019,” the company said in a statement.

Norwegian joins others in the travel sector hit by the 737 MAX's problems. Tourism group TUI TUIGn.DE warned on Tuesday that the grounding was a big burden as it reported a 46% decline in underlying quarterly core earnings (EBITA).

The airline said it would refund customers who no longer wished to travel from Ireland to the United States and Canada via other destinations. It will continue to fly from Dublin to Oslo, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

Norwegian launched flights from Ireland to North America in 2017, three years after introducing the UK’s first low-cost, long haul flights to the United States.

Shares in Norwegian closed down 2.9%.

Reporting by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by David Holmes