Cork warns US not to breach EU air deal in Norwegian row
CORK Airport has claimed that any US attempt to introduce legislation to block a budget carrier from launching a new transatlantic service would be a breach of the 'Open Skies' EU deal.
The claim came as the Irish airport said it remains hopeful that Norwegian Airlines can get a Cork-Boston service launched this summer despite the move by four US senators to try to scuttle the project.
The American politicians tabled the emergency legislation which, if passed, would prevent the US Department of Transport from allowing Norwegian Airlines to launch a Cork-Boston service this summer.
The move came just 48 hours after Norwegian Airlines boss Bjorn Kjos said he hoped to launch the Cork route on August 1.
Services from Cork and Shannon to New York are also in the pipeline.
Cork Airport managing director Niall McCarthy said the move by the US senators was in flagrant breach of EU/US 'Open Skies' agreements.
"Their motivation is on protectionist grounds for, as they would say, US jobs and US airlines," he said.
"But it is illegal under the EU/US 'Open Skies' agreements. It is not to be welcomed and it is blatantly anti-consumer," he added.
"Ourselves, our supporters and obviously the EU, which has been very engaged on this, will be ensuring that the US applies due process and that the licence is awarded as originally planned." Mr McCarthy said he was "hopeful" Norwegian will get the service operational this summer and he welcomed the overwhelming endorsement of the route by south-western firms.
He said Cork will achieve 8pc growth in passenger numbers this year - and he also welcomed comments by IAG boss, Willie Walsh, the owners of Aer Lingus and British Airways, that he would like to launch a Cork-US service.
"It is very positive news but, while not wanting to temper expectations, he was talking about a 2020 timeframe," Mr McCarthy added.
US authorities indicated last month they had no major legal objection to the new Irish services which have been dogged by delays over the past 18 months.
However, the 11th hour move by the four US senators to introduce emergency legislation is understood to be linked to long-standing concerns from US carriers and trade unions over the impact Norwegian will have on the transatlantic trade.