The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has claimed there is "a consistent oversupply" of transatlantic flights from Ireland.
The statement was made in the wake of this week's announcement that Norwegian Air is withdrawing its transatlantic offering as of September 15 and has been roundly criticised by business groups in the south of Ireland.
Norwegian confirmed that it is
Bringing the carrier to Cork in the summer of 2017 was viewed as a major coup at the time. It was the first direct transatlantic offering from the airport and the withdrawal has been described as "very disappointing" by airport officials.
Shannon Airport CEO Mary Considine warned the withdrawal could have a multi-million euro impact on the Munster economy.
Niall MacCarthy, managing director of Cork Airport, said they are "in active discussions with a number of carriers" with regards to establishing a new transatlantic service, but that it is likely to be 2021 before any such service would begin.
Responding to the withdrawal, a spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport said transatlantic air routes are "of strategic importance to Ireland" to maximise connectivity to the country for tourism and business.
"However, the Department is aware that there has been a consistent oversupply in the transatlantic air transport market particularly during recent winter seasons," the spokesperson said, adding that the withdrawal "is likely to have a particularly negative impact on Cork and Shannon Airports and the regions they serve."
The assertion that Ireland is oversupplied for transatlantic options has been criticised by local business groups.
Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber, described the loss of the route as "a blow".
"Our biannual airport demand survey 2019 shows that connectivity to New York, in particular, remains a strong priority for the Cork business community," he said.
Demand is undiminished and we’ll be working closely with Cork Airport to secure a replacement. Having been heavily involved in securing Norwegian’s US licence to open up these new routes, their commencement in 2017 was a noteworthy first for both business and leisure users. Norwegian’s commitment substantiated the commercial viability of the routes but unique circumstances meant they could not be sustained.
Pat Dawson, CEO of the Irish Travel Agents Association, echoed this criticism.
"The ITAA assert that the loss of Norwegian Air transatlantic flights is a considerable blow for regional airports Cork and Shannon in particular, leaving passengers with few alternatives for direct transatlanic travel. Other than routes flying from Dublin, there is very little capacity on transatlantic routes," he said.
"The ITAA understand that there is often overcapacity during winter, as the main bulk of tourism and travel takes places between the months of April and October. When overcapacity does occur, the customer benefits from cheaper fares.
"It should also be taken into consideration that Dublin is often used as a hub for European passengers travelling on transatlantic routes."