NORWEGIAN AIR COULD be unable to get its planned Cork to Boston flights off the ground this summer with US officials so far refusing to sign off on the airline’s proposed route.
The Nordic carrier announced with fanfare in September that it would be operating direct routes four times a week between the two cities from May next year.
However the flights are dependent on US authorities giving approval to Norwegian Air International, the Ireland-based subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, to operate from Boston, despite their Irish counterparts already lending their support.
The route would be the first transatlantic flights from Cork in more than 50 years and part of a proposed expansion that was also scheduled to include direct trips from the southern city to New York in 2017.
Dublin Airport Authority head Kevin Toland, whose organisation also runs Cork Airport, said there was a real danger the service wouldn’t start this summer, according to the Irish Independent.
A spokeswoman for Norwegian Air told TheJournal.ie the airline would be able to operate the route from May “providing the correct permits are in place”.
However we will need to review the start date soon if there is no movement from the (US) Department of Transport (DoT).
The low-cost airline, Europe’s third-largest budget carrier, currently operates flights from New York, Los Angeles and Oakland to several European destinations.
However Norwegian Air International’s bid for permission to operate transatlantic flight under the EU-US “open skies” agreement has run into opposition from some American airlines and unions.
Its application for a US foreign carrier concession has been languishing since 2013 amid claims its Irish registration was merely a “flag of convenience” to cut costs by sidestepping Norwegian labour rules.
The airline has failed to win approval despite committing to using only US and European pilots and crews on the flights.
The Irish Examiner yesterday reported the European Commission was expected to take up Norwegian Air International’s case in support of the open skies deal.
A boost for Cork
The news of the new route was welcomed in the region as a boost for connectivity at an airport that has been losing passengers while traffic through Dublin and Shannon has been booming.
Aer Lingus today announced it was adding capacity this summer on its route from Shannon to Boston with an extra 6,000 seats to be available across the season.
The Norwegian Air spokeswoman said that transatlantic flights from Cork were “only the beginning of our plans for expansion in Ireland”.
“But these new routes still rely on the (DoT) finally approving Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit,” she said.
It is clear that there is huge support for these new routes from the Irish authorities, the airport and the wider public – we urge the DoT to finally give their approval which will unlock the door for these new routes, bringing greater competition, more choice and better fares for passengers on both sides of the Atlantic.”
A spokeswoman for the DoT said via email that the US agency was still reviewing the permit application and a decision hadn’t been made.
“The application involves novel and complex issues and we are taking the necessary time to evaluate the long-term application appropriately,” she said.
There were no statutory deadlines or estimates for how long the process would take, she added.
First published 12.41pm