Norwegian plans direct flights from Ireland to Asia - if Russia agrees
Norwegian Air International (NAI) is considering direct flights between Dublin and Asia if it can secure permission for overflights across Russia, chief executive Tore Jenssen has confirmed.
A likely destination would be China's capital, Beijing.
And Mr Jenssen said that even if Chinese carrier Hainan soon launches, as expected, an indirect service between Dublin and Beijing, it would not deter NAI from also serving the route.
"What's interesting from here would be the Far East," he said in an interview with the Irish Independent. "There's no connection."
He added that the runway at Dublin is a "little short" for a full 787 Dreamliner payload to Beijing or Bangkok, but that it's not a significant issue. Dublin Airport has started building a new, longer runway it hopes to have operational by 2021.
"It would be great for Ireland if both we and Hainan flew from Dublin to Beijing. Imagine the fares," said Mr Jenssen. "I think there are plenty of Chinese who want to come to Ireland.
"One of the challenges is overflight permits for Russia," he said, adding that there's no clear timeline in terms of when such a permit could be secured. "We have a bunch of 787s coming. It's a complicated process to get them into service, so we probably need a couple of years to plan it.
"The business case will work, but we don't have specific plans as of now to start," said Mr Jenssen. "We'll focus first on the transatlantic."
Norwegian Air International - a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle - launches its highly-anticipated services from Ireland to the US this weekend.
Mr Jenssen also said that NAI will see how ticket sales progress on its Dublin-US routes before deciding whether or not to deploy a larger capacity 787 on the route rather than the smaller 737-800 it will initially use. It will eventually use the Boeing 737-Max on the routes from Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast.
NAI won't be launching flights from Cork to Stewart International Airport initially, but will serve the city to Providence, Rhode Island, which it bills as a gateway to New England and Boston.
NAI takes delivery today of its first 737-Max jet, and will evaluate fuel performance before deciding if it will be used on the Cork-Stewart route.
Read the interview in full