'They want to stamp it out at birth' - Irish Aviation Authority boss 'concerned' at US delays over Cork to Boston flights
The head of the Irish Aviation Authority said he's concerned that US officials will again delay granting a permit that will allow flights to be launched between Cork and Boston this year.
Norwegian Air International (NAI) has been trying for two years to secure a permit that would enable it to fly from Ireland to the US, but intense political and union opposition has delayed the approval. NAI is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Eamonn Brennan, the chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority, said that he is "very concerned" that there will be further delay in NAI securing final approval. EU officials are set to meet their US counterparts next week to discuss the issue.
Mr Brennan said US airlines want to stymie competition.
"They want to stamp it out at birth," he said.
Mr Brennan was speaking this afternoon on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting the world's largest annual gathering of airline bosses, which is being held in Dublin this year.
The US Department of Transportation has already indicated that it intends to grant the required permit to NAI, but now has to wait for executive branches of the current US administration to give final approval. Given the upcoming US presidential election, that could delay any final decision on the permit. Presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have both said they oppose NAI's plans to use Ireland as a HQ for operating flights between Europe and the US.
Mr Brennan said the delay in processing NAI's application is "unprecedented".
"It's a unique opportunity for Ireland," he said of NAI's plans. "You'll have a very large airline based in Ireland and what you'll see in the future is airlines like Ryanair linking up with Norwegian."
NAI wants to fly between Cork and Boston this year, and launch a service from Cork to New York next year.