The first ever scheduled flights between Cork and the United States are set to take off this summer after the US Department of Transport signalled it has tentatively agreed to provide the necessary permit for an Irish unit of airline Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), is based in Dublin Airport, and has an Irish air operator’s certificate (AOC). However, there has been a two-year wait so far in its application for a foreign carrier permit being decided upon by US officials.
That delay has been prompted by intense opposition from US aviation unions to NAI being allowed to fly from Ireland to America.
But political pressure brought to bear on the United States by Irish and EU officials to have NAI granted the permit appears to have paid off.
The US Department of Transportation has today issued an order proposing to grant a foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian Air International.
When, as expected, it is made final, the permit will allow Norwegian Air International to begin operations to the US, including the first ever service between Cork and Boston.
“A final approval, based on the Open Skies Agreement between the US and EU, will be win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic,” Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos of Norwegian Group said in a statement this afternoon.
He added: “It will allow Norwegian to expand our US operations. Our continued presence in the US will create thousands of jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars of economic activity for the group’s US destinations.”
NAI had originally intended to commence flights between Cork and the US next month. That still won’t happen, but the airline said it still wants to see the route to Boston up and running during the summer.
Niall MacCarthy, the managing director at Cork Airport said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for the airport, the airline and the region. We have worked so hard to make this happen over many months in both Washington and locally. I acknowledge the great support received from our local business stakeholders, local politicans and the Irish Government. I would particularly commend Cork Chamber for their solid support in these efforts.”
Kevin Toland, the chief executive of the DAA, also welcomed the news.
“This is excellent progress and a very positive move,” he said.
“We are looking forward to getting the pathway cleared so that tickets can go on sale as soon as possible for flights from Cork to Boston initially and to New York in due course.”
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has blasted comments being disseminated by the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) regarding the Ireland-based subsidiary of Scandinavian airline Norwegian, describing the remarks as "significant false inaccuracies".