Economy Minister Simon Hamilton MLA has spelt out the facts that led to United Airlines ending its Belfast-Newark route.
He said: “The facts are straightforward. The European Commission informed United Airlines that, in its view, the support package for the Belfast- Newark service constituted state aid. That was conveyed at a meeting at which my Department was represented along with United.
"The Commission was also poised to trigger a formal investigation into a complaint received about the Executive package.
"Faced with the Commission’s starting viewpoint and the likelihood that this would be confirmed in the formal investigation of the complaint, United took the decision to end the service.
"I deeply regret that decision, but that does not mean we were wrong to try to save the route.
"Our critics have to decide if they are complaining about the loss of the route or our attempt to preserve it. They can’t have it both ways.”
Notes to editors:
- United Airlines letter to Invest NI can be found here.
- Minister Hamilton spelt out the situation in Assembly yesterday see Extract from Hansard 7/11/2016 - Simon Hamilton MLA said: "The meeting took place on 27 October and involved officials from my Department and representatives of United. At the meeting, my Department was informed for the first time that a complaint had been received by the Commission. The Commission also indicated that it was under a duty to investigate the complaint and that its initial assessment, although not a formal legal position, was that state aid was present. In the light of the Commission's viewpoint on the support, United decided to terminate the agreement at the end of last week and returned in full the one payment that had been made."
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