Cork-US flights cleared for take-off
City set for business and tourism boost as Norwegian airline receives long-awaited permit
Cork plans to celebrate its first ever scheduled airline services to the United States this summer, with Norwegian Air International (NAI) poised to receive a long-awaited permit from US authorities to fly to America.
The news is a major boost for locals, businesses and tourism in the region. A route to Boston - with up to five flights a week - is due to be launched first by NAI, followed by a service between Cork and New York next year. NAI is an Irish subsidiary of the airline Norwegian Air Shuttle.
The Irish unit is based in Dublin Airport, and already has an Irish air operator's certificate. However, there has been a two-year wait so far in its application to US authorities for a foreign carrier permit to be decided upon.
That delay has been prompted by intense opposition from US aviation unions to NAI being allowed to fly from Ireland to the US.
But political pressure brought to bear on the United States by Irish and EU officials appears to have paid off.
The US Department of Transport said yesterday that there is "no legal basis" to deny NAI's application to fly to the United States and said it has tentatively agreed to issue the required permit. Norwegian Air Shuttle already flies to the US, but the Irish subsidiary does not.
Norwegian Air Shuttle chief executive, Bjorn Kjos, said the decision is a "win-win" for consumers.
NAI had originally intended to commence flights between Cork and the US next month, but it now intends to launch them during the summer.
The US Department of Transport said that it "went to great lengths" to consider a number of issues raised by opponents to NAI being granted a permit, including labour concerns.
"The provision in the US-EU agreement that addresses labour does not afford a basis for rejecting an applicant that is otherwise qualified to receive a permit," it said.
A 21-day consultation period has begun that allows objections to be made to the tentative order to grant a permit, with replies to those objections due by May 13.
A final decision will then be made, but it's believed the permit will be secured.
Conor Healy, the chief executive of Cork Chamber, said the decision is a "major milestone" for the area.
He added that the US routes would "transform opportunities for businesses and tourism in Cork".
The managing director of Cork Airport, Niall MacCarthy, described it as "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," he said.
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."