Enda Kenny urges US to approve licence for Cork flights

The Taoiseach has urged US authorities to approve a licence to the Irish airline that is planning low-cost transatlantic flights from Cork Airport.

Mr Kenny’s comments come ahead of a crucial meeting between Violeta Bulc, the European commissioner for transport, and US secretary of transportation Anthony Foxx in Montreal tomorrow, when the NAI case will be discussed.

It is a year to the day since Norwegian Air International (NAI) announced its plans to fly to Boston and New York from Cork.

The Dublin-based airline, a subsidiary of low-fares giant Norwegian, applied to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) for a foreign carrier permit almost three years ago.

It is still awaiting a final decision. It is now the longest pending application of its kind ever considered by the US.

It is facing intense opposition from several influential US and European pilot and cabin crew unions.

The Taoiseach said he has raised the issue twice with US President Barack Obama and insisted that politics is not to blame for the delay.

“We have had discussions at a European level and at an American level. You can’t get any higher than the American president,” Mr Kenny said.

He said the issues raised by NAI’s opponents have been dealt with comprehensively, and that the proposed services comply with the Open Skies EU-US Agreement.

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

“This is not a political obstruction. There is now a claim for this to go to arbitration.

“If the matter becomes approved in the meantime, there will be no need for arbitration.

“But it is a matter for common sense to prevail here — for a situation that is in compliance with the Open Skies Agreement and that will have enormous beneficial results on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said.

Despite the protracted delays, Norwegian insisted that it remains committed to launching transatlantic flights from Cork.

However, with a final decision on the licence not expected until after the US presidential elections in November, hopes are fading that the Boston service will start before the end of the year.

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