Details of the first direct flights from Cork to the US could be announced within days after US authorities sanctioned the airline’s final piece of operational paperwork over the weekend.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally signed off on Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) Section 129 application late on Friday night.
It was the last document the low-fares airline needed before it could formally announce route details and begin selling tickets.
The news that all of the paperwork is now in place comes just months after the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation (DOT) finally granted a foreign carrier permit to NAI after an unprecedented two- and-a-half-year wait, and despite intense political and union opposition.
However, an intense political and lobbying campaign which culminated with Taoiseach Enda Kenny raising the matter with Barack Obama last St Patrick’s Day helped secure a licence in accordance with the EU-US Open Skies agreement.
NAI, the Irish subsidiary of low-fares airline giant Norwegian, has done a huge amount of preparatory work on back-office systems, route planning, aircraft scheduling, and ticket sales systems, in anticipation of securing the final paperwork.
It is understood that everything is now in place to announce the launch of Cork’s first direct transatlantic routes — with a low-fares service to New England, just south of Boston, expected first.
Arrangements were being finalised over the weekend to schedule a formal announcement involving the airline’s senior executives.
“With DOT approval in place for some time, Norwegian’s focus has been on finalising our plans for new routes, greater competition and lower fares in Ireland, Europe and the US,” an airline spokesman said.
“We expect to announce new transatlantic routes from Ireland and the US soon.”
It is expected that NAI will announce its Cork to New England, Boston route first, with flights landing at TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, about 112km south of Boston.
It is expected that its Cork New York service, landing at Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, New York — 100km north of Manhattan — will begin next year.
The airline has said that using secondary airports in the US presents it with an “opportunity to offer some truly groundbreaking fares to passengers in Ireland and the US”.
The airline is also expected to announce flights to the US from Shannon, Dublin and Belfast airports .
Securing direct transatlantic routes has been a goal of Cork Airport for more than 50 years.
There have been several false dawns over the years, with efforts to launch Cork-US routes collapsing at the last minute.
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