Business Irish

Friday 26 May 2017

It's up to you ... New York, New York with Norwegian's faraway planes

The on-off-on saga of Norwegian Air International's bid to fly from Cork to the United States has been surrounded by more secrecy than the third secret of Fatima. (Stock picture)
The on-off-on saga of Norwegian Air International's bid to fly from Cork to the United States has been surrounded by more secrecy than the third secret of Fatima. (Stock picture)
Mark Evans

Mark Evans

The on-off-on saga of Norwegian Air International's bid to fly from Cork to the United States has been surrounded by more secrecy than the third secret of Fatima.

And it was a case of you wait long enough for one route and four come along, with Dublin, Shannon and even Belfast stealing Cork's inaugural transatlantic service thunder.

Seats - advertised from as low as €69 each way - sold out within minutes (and I couldn't find any at the low prices, just minutes after the route's announcement on Thursday).

Norwegian said it was an unprecedented sales scramble, saying 5,000 seats sold out in record time - but sources have told me the real figure could be even higher.

But of course it's a case of buyer beware. The flights from Dublin, Shannon and Belfast to 'New York' land at Stewart International - 67 miles from Manhattan. The lovely-named Leprechaun Lines will shuttle you from the airport to nearby Beacon Station.

From there it's a little over an hour and a half - and up to $42.50 return - to Grand Central in Manhattan. The 'Boston' service lands at Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, 60 miles away. It has handier public transport links, but still expect a journey time of up to two hours. At the time of writing there was still no word on whether the Dublin and Shannon services will have pre-clearance, so the routes - while a steal for the happy clappers - might not be so enticing for the time-poor business traveller. If you're still keen, and can bag a decent fare, more power to you - and you're not alone, with 95pc of transatlantic growth this year coming from European airlines and only 5pc from the major US carriers.

A good deal of the extra growth is fuelled by announcements from Norwegian (adding almost a quarter of a million extra seats in total this year) and other low-cost carriers, most notably WOW, which connects Ireland to US cities via Iceland. And Norwegian's Ed Sheeran gig-style sales rush proves yet again that the Irish love a bargain. Indeed, one major Irish tour operator recounted a spike in sales from Irish families hungry for a deal to New York ... the day after 9/11.

■ There's drama too at home with Transport Minister Shane Ross appearing to pass judgment on the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) before the jury's even been sworn in.

With Dublin's passenger figures heading ever closer to topping the 30 million mark, a third terminal is on the agenda. And the prospect of that being in private hands is back on the agenda too.

Ross told an aviation conference last Monday that a review to look at the needs of our airports will begin in weeks, but he added: "The question must be continually asked, is a State monopoly in the interest of the users, the taxpayer or the travelling public. I think I know the answer."

He's not giving away the answer, but no prizes for guessing where he stands - his Department told this column that the winning bidder to carry out the review of our airports hasn't been decided yet.

Aer Lingus chief executive Stephen Kavanagh recently told the Irish Independent that the option of going private should be strongly considered, while Ryanair was strongly critical of Terminal 2, with boss Michael O'Leary saying on its opening day in 2010 that "it's a nice place to welcome IMF executives".

But another executive involved in global aviation argued to this column that the DAA "are doing a fantastic job", and had only minor quibbles with the operator compared to other airports.

The DAA itself is keeping tight-lipped on the issue. But with Dublin Airport being named Europe's fastest-growing for passenger numbers last year, it now risks becoming a victim of its own success.

Sunday Indo Business

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