Cork Airport is to lose its first and only service to the US for the winter.
It follows a commercial review by low-fares giant Norwegian of its network and comes just weeks after the airline announced an expansion of its Irish operations.
Management at Cork Airport, who played a key role in helping the airline secure a permit to operate transatlantic flights out of Ireland almost two years ago, will lose the year-round link to Boston/Providence from October. The service will operate for the summer only next year — March to October.
Norwegian’s review has also resulted in the suspension of its Shannon and Edinburgh routes to Providence this winter. It is understood the decisions were made after a meeting of the airline’s board last week. However, it was only confirmed yesterday on foot of inquiries from the Irish Examiner.
A spokesperson said the decision to suspend flights during the winter period was due to “lower demand”.
“The services will continue through October and we will continue to assess our transatlantic route performance as we confirm the route schedule for next summer,” it said.
In February, Norwegian doubled the flights on its Shannon to Providence route, added a third daily weekly flight from Shannon to Stewart Airport in New York, and doubled the daily frequency of its flights out of Dublin to Stewart.
But the decision to scale back these services, including Cork’s first transatlantic link in the airport’s 50-year history, now casts serious doubt on the airline’s pledge to launch a Cork to New York service.
Last night, Cork Airport spokesman Kevin Cullinane said they had been made aware of the decision to suspend the Providence service this winter, but he stressed advance bookings for next 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 USA,” he said.
Norwegian insisted last month that it is “fully committed” to its Irish routes despite confirming it would post larger-than-expected losses for the first quarter, and that it raised €136.8m in a share sale to help fund its expansion and cope with higher fuel costs.
Davy analyst Ross Harvey said the low-cost long-haul model “could only work if it is actually low-cost”.
“We believe Norwegian is targeting a potentially profitable niche, namely leisure oriented, high density, long-haul low-cost from major European cities,” said Mr Harvey. “However, for capital providers — debt, equity and leasing — to retain confidence in the Norwegian version of this, there needs to be an improving cost trajectory through the second half of 2018.”
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