BUDGET long-haul operator Norwegian Airlines is to use a fleet of replacement jets to the grounded Boeing 737 MAX 8 to resume transatlantic operations from Irish airports.
owever, until April 11 the airline will offer Cork and Shannon passengers who are already booked the option of either rerouting their journey through Dublin or getting a full refund.
If passengers intending on travelling from Cork and Shannon to the US are willing to reroute from Dublin for travel between March 31 and April 10, bus transfers will be provided by Norwegian to Dublin.
Norwegian was one of the world's airlines most seriously impacted by the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft following the tragic Ethiopian Airlines crash earlier this month.
The US aircraft type will remain grounded worldwide until a full aviation safety review of its flight control systems following two fatal crashes in the space of just five months.
Norwegian had used its fleet of new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft to offer transatlantic services from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to Boston and New York over the past two years.
Its service from Cork to Boston was the first regular transatlantic service ever secured by Ireland's second biggest airport - and had proved a huge success.
While Dublin Airport services to US destinations such as New York and Boston have already been facilitated by a new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, smaller replacement jets will allow a resumption of Norwegian services from Cork Airport.
A similar position is expected in Shannon.
Norwegian will confirm details of its permanent route arrangements after April 10.
A spokesperson for Cork Airport welcomed clarity on the situation regarding the first four flights in April and Norwegian’s ongoing efforts to find a more permanent solution to operate normal direct services from April 11 next.
Cork Airport managing director, Niall McCarthy, said he expected Norwegian services from Cork to Boston/Rhode Island to resume in April.
"We are expecting Norwegian to start services again in Cork for the summer season - they will be using alternative aircraft.
"It will either be an Airbus aircraft or a Boeing aircraft with an extended (range) fuel tank.
"We are very confident you will see Norwegian back operating transatlantic services from Cork for this summer.
"As soon as they confirm the aircraft, it will all be finalised. We are only waiting on final confirmation of the aircraft (type) but we are expecting services by Norwegian to Boston, starting from mid April," Mr McCarthy said.
Norwegian has already secured a Boeing 737-800 series aircraft, which boasts one of the world's best safety records, for some North American
routes from Dublin.
The news came as a major boost for Cork which is now Ireland's fastest expanding airport with passenger numbers up by 10pc in February.
The airport has predicted 8pc passenger growth over 2019 - with a total of 2.6 million passengers expected at the facility thanks to new routes and increased flight frequencies.
Tanaiste Simon Coveney unveiled Cork's €1m new Airport Control Centre (ACC) and office complex which represents the first phase of an ambitious new €10m investment.
A major portion of the planned investment is an upgrading and expansion of security systems at the airport over the next few years.
Cork was also boosted by nine new route destinations for 2019 including services to the UK, France, Malta, Italy, Portugal, Hungary and Poland.