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Transatlantic flights from Cork finally get the go-ahead

The US Department of Transportation has granted a permit to Norwegian Air International after several delays.

THE US DEPARTMENT of Transportation has granted a permit to Norwegian Air International (NAI) to operate services between Ireland and the US, clearing the way for transatlantic flight from Cork Airport.

Norwegian Air International plans to initially launch a Cork to Boston service before introducing a Cork to New York route.

Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport, said: “This is momentous news for air travellers on both sides of the Atlantic … I firmly believe this will permanently transform the transatlantic market in Ireland and further afield for the better.

“Norwegian will do for transatlantic travel what Ryanair has done for European travel, bringing lower fares, increased competition and growth to the overall market.”

NAI was granted a licence to operate from Ireland in 2014 after it was moved here by its parent company, Scandinavian airline Norwegian Air Shuttle, to avail of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. The parent company already operates flights from Europe to the US.

The agreement allows airlines registered in either the US or EU to operate flights between the two regions. Since Norway is not a member of the EU, NAI needed to register itself in Ireland – or another EU country – to avail of those rights.

The airline announced that it planned to launch “low-cost” flights from Cork to Boston in May of this year, with the provision of operating another service to New York in 2017 if the first route was successful. It said it also hoped to operate flights out of Shannon.

nor File photo Source: Ringo H.W. Chiu AP/Press Association Images

Even though it “tentatively” agreed to grant NAI a permit in June, Washington has continued to postpone its final decision because of strong opposition from US airlines and trade unions.

They claimed that Norwegian Air Shuttle is just using the subsidiary to skirt Norway’s strict labour laws and it will recruit cheap staff in Asia to cut costs at the expense of American jobs.

MacCarthy said the decision is the result of “a tremendous amount of work undertaken to secure this route on both sides of the Atlantic”.

“We must acknowledge the huge support received from political, business and local government stakeholders in Ireland, the EU and US. The final stages of the process have seen a significant contribution and support from the public too and I want to thank everyone who helped make this happen.”

Good for Cork 

Transport Minister Shane Ross welcomed the decision, saying: “I am very pleased that a decision has been made and that NAI as an EU airline licenced by the Irish aviation authorities will finally be allowed to avail of the rights available to all EU airlines under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement.

This is good news for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic, and I now look forward to NAI confirming its plans for the new services it announced last year.

“The launch of those services, bringing additional capacity and the direct transatlantic connectivity into the region, will be a boost for Cork Airport and for Cork business and tourism, and I am sure that the services will be well supported by the people in Cork and the wider catchment area,” Ross said.

Senator Jerry Buttimer described the news as “fantastic” for Cork. Cork Chamber and DAA also welcomed the decision.

Contains reporting from Fora staff

Read: Your crash course in… Norwegian Air’s Irish problem

Read: Cork Airport’s boss on his plans for the future – like conquering Canada

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Órla Ryan

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