The first transatlantic flights from Cork are poised to take off later this year after a breakthrough ruling by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) writes Irish Examiner Reporter Eoin English .
The DoT issued an order yesterday proposing to grant a foreign carrier permit to Norwegian Air International (NAI), the Irish subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, to fly to the US. The DoT said NAI appears to meet its normal standards for awarding the permit under the terms of the EU-US Open Skies deal, and there appears to be no legal basis to deny NAI’s application.
The DoT’s ‘show cause order’ invites observations by May 6, with any responses due by May 13.
A DoT spokesman said it will review those submissions before issuing a final order. But its ruling effectively clears the way for a permit to be issued.
Norwegian announced plans last September to operate a low-fare Cork to Boston service, and a Cork to New York service next year. It also plans to operate a Cork to Barcelona service.
Niall MacCarthy, Cork Airport managing director, said the DoT ruling was 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. “I acknowledge the great support received from our local business stakeholders, local politicians and the Irish government. I would particularly commend Cork Chamber for their solid support in these efforts.”
The DoT ruling brings to an end a protracted two-year process during which several US legacy airlines and labour unions objected to NAI’s application. And it came just weeks after the culmination of an intense lobbying campaign by the Government, DAA, and Cork Chamber, targeting Boston and Washington around St Patrick’s Day celebrations.
Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe welcomed the announcement, describing it as “an important breakthrough in the process to allow the airline commence services to the US”.
Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber, said: “This move is a major milestone and gives great encouragement in respect of a final approval, which will transform opportunities for business and tourism in Cork.”
Meanwhile, Cork Airport has installed a €450,000 airbridge to help deal with passenger growth. The airbridge has been installed at aircraft parking stand 8 and will be operational over the coming weeks.