Norwegian Air International to suspend transatlantic service from Cork for the winter months
Budget carrier Norwegian Air International (NAI) has confirmed it is to suspend its transatlantic service from Cork for the winter months.
The airline confirmed that "following a comprehensive review of services, Norwegian has decided to suspend some routes during the quieter winter season due to lower demand."
The announcement is a major blow to Cork Airport which had celebrated the launch of its first-ever scheduled service to the US just last July.
It had been hoped the year-round service from Cork to Providence, Rhode Island, serving the greater Boston area, would be a major success - and that NAI would follow-up by adding a second service from Cork to New York.
However, NAI will now operate a summer-only service from Cork to Providence for 2018/19.
NAI also suspended winter operations to Providence/Boston from Shannon and Edinburgh.
The potential launch of a Cork-New York route still remains under negotiation.
It is understood the decision to restrict the Cork-Providence route to summer-only operations is in direct response to lower than anticipated passenger bookings over the winter months.
Cork Airport confirmed the Providence/Boston service will now operate by Norwegian between March and October - but insisted the service had been a great success with negotiations underway with other carriers about routes to the US and Canada.
"Advance bookings for this summer are very strong - the route is proving very popular in both directions for US visitors to the south of Ireland as well as those heading to the east coast of the US," a Cork Airport spokesman said.
The Dublin-New York service operated by NAI is expected to remain a year round route.
Several analysts had expressed concern about the ability of the Cork-Providence route - rather than the predicted Cork-New York rout - to justify year-round operations.
Ironically, the decision to restrict the Cork route to summer-only operations follows predictions Ireland will enjoy record visitor numbers from North American in 2018.
NAI last year vowed to revolutionise the transatlantic market as they announced returns fares from Ireland to Boston and New York from just €138.
The fares, inclusive of all taxes and charges, were available on all new NAI flights planned from Dublin, Cork and Shannon to the two US cities.
NAI launched the first-ever direct scheduled flights from Cork to the US on July 1.
Airline boss Bjorn Kjos confirmed that the carrier would operate 12 flights weekly from Dublin to Boston/Providence and New York, four flights weekly from Shannon to Boston/Providence and New York as well as three departures weekly from Cork to Boston/Providence.
Dublin secured a daily departure to New York's Stewart Airport, located about an hour north of New York City.
Mr Kjos had said a Cork-New York link was their first option but, for operational reasons, they launched the Boston/Providence route instead with the New York route to follow from Cork in 2018.
However, there is no indication the New York route will materialise this year.
NAI fly to non-hub US airports and replicate the hugely successful Ryanair model on the money-spinning transatlantic route.
The airline won a two year battle with the US authorities to secure operating rights from Ireland to Boston and New York.
Norwegian use a new generation of high-efficiency aircraft such as the Boeing 737-MAX to offer exceptionally low fares on its Irish-US routes.
Speaking at the launch of the Cork service, Mr Kjos said it was a landmark for Irish aviation services.
"This is a wonderful day for us and we are very happy with all the support that Ireland and the Irish people have given us in our bid to get these flights launched over the past two years," he said.
Mr Kjos said he believed NAI and their low-fare policy will have a major impact on the market.
"Some people do not like low fares for their own reasons. But we believe that the public like low air fares and will support these new routes."
Unlike carrier such as Aer Lingus, United and Delta which operate to major US hub airports, NAI fly to smaller airports including Stewart Airport in Orange County, New York state and Green Airport in Rhode Island.
These offer major savings on landing fee charges.
However, Mr Kjos insisted both airports offer excellent public transport links to Boston and New York.