Cork-US air service a ‘game changer’ for airport

Cork Airport’s first scheduled transatlantic services — a strategic target of airport management for 50 years — have been hailed as a game changer for the region.

As reported in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, low fares airline Norwegian confirmed plans yesterday to operate a direct Cork to Boston service up to five times a week from next May, using a narrow bodied Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

It is also planning to launch a high-frequency Cork-Barcelona service at the same time, and has plans to launch a Cork-New York service in 2017, using a Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Norwegian, which carried 24m passengers last year, launched the UK’s only low-cost long-haul flights from London Gatwick to four US destinations, with one-way fares from £145 one-way.

Commercial negotiations on the new Cork-Boston route are ongoing but airport management said they are confident the Irish fares will be as competitive.

The new routes will be operated under Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary Norwegian Air International (NAI) and form part of the airline’s plans for continued expansion in the UK and Ireland.

Norwegian, Europe’s third -largest low-cost airline, is in talks with the US Department of Transportation (DoT) about NAI’s application for a foreign carrier permit. But the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said it is confident that approval will be forthcoming within a few months.

“The new routes to the USA will be subject to the normal Ireland/USA approvals process and we look forward to these routes commencing,” IAA chief executive Eamonn Brennan said at Cork Airport yesterday.

“It is also great to see the introduction of the Cork to Barcelona route by NAI, which will provide another strong transport connection from the south of Ireland to continental Europe.”

Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy described the triple routes announcement as an historic day for the airport.

“The addition of direct year-round connectivity to North America has long been a target for Cork Airport, which has a robust business hinterland with a large cluster of US multinationals and a fantastic tourism product,” he said. “This is great news for both the airport and the region.”

Norwegian’s CEO Bjorn Kjos said: “This is only the beginning of our plans for new routes in Ireland but our expansion relies on the DoT finally approving NAI’s application for a foreign carrier permit.”

CityJet will launch its 18 times a week service to London City Airport next Thursday. Aer Lingus is launching a new Cork-Dusseldorf route next summer, and has increased frequency on its Cork-Tenerife route this winter. Flybe has also doubled capacity on its new Cardiff service.

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