A high-level delegation from Cork Chamber, the Irish Aviation Authority and officials from Dublin and Cork airports met the US ambassador to Ireland yesterday as part of intense efforts to secure the first transatlantic flights from Cork.
Chamber chief executive Conor Healy last night described the meeting with Kevin O’Malley as “positive”.
Mr Healy said the ambassador listened to their concerns; is aware of how important the new flights are; and understands the timelines involved.
“He has committed to bring those points back to the Department of Transport in Washington,” he said.
But Mr Healy called on Taoiseach Enda Kenny to intervene: “I welcomed his comments that he supports the efforts of the transport minister to resolve this issue, but the Taoiseach needs to intervene personally at this stage.”
Mr Healy met the ambassador as part of a delegation which included Kevin Toland, the chief executive of the daa; Niall McCarthy, the head of Cork Airport; and Dermot McCarthy, a flights operation inspector with the Irish Aviation Authority.
They discussed the two-year delay by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) in issuing a foreign carrier permit to Irish airline, Norwegian Air International, which plans to launch a Cork to Boston service in May. The airline also hopes to launch a Cork-to-New York service next year.
The airline’s application, which is in full accordance with the 2007 Open Skies agreement between the EU and US, is now the longest pending application of its kind. It is understood that a decision is needed within weeks to ensure the service begins as planned in May.
Mr Healy said the proposed service is vital for several US multinationals which have European operations in Cork and which have consistently stressed the importance of connectivity between Cork and the US, and for indigenous companies who are exporting to the US.
He said they also stressed the importance of the flights to the tourism industry, especially with the launch next week of a major new tourism strategy for the Cork region — which targets the US as a major market.
He welcomed efforts by Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune, who is meeting European Commission officials next week to discuss the issue; but he called on Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, and other elected public representatives to intervene.
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