The European transport commissioner has urged the US to make a decision soon on an Irish airline’s application for a licence to operate the first transatlantic flights from Cork.
In one of her strongest statements yet on the impasse threatening low-cost aviation giant Norwegian’s ambitious growth plans from Ireland, Violeta Bulc expressed concerns at US licensing delays which have forced the deferral of the May launch of the airline’s Cork to Boston service.
And she said the EU is “seriously considering all available options to swiftly solve the issue”.
As revealed by the Irish Examiner last month, it is understood that the commission will trigger an arbitration process if a positive decision is not forthcoming.
Ms Bulc made her comments during face-to-face meetings in Washington DC with her US counterparts on Tuesday.
It followed intense diplomatic pressure from Ireland amid mounting concerns over the future of the proposed transatlantic flights out of Cork Airport.
Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), wants to avail of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement and operate Cork to Boston flights this year, and a Cork to New York service next year.
But it has been waiting two years for the US Department of Transportation to make a decision on its foreign carrier permit application.
It is the longest pending application of its kind.
Ms Bulc, who was in Washington for talks on curbing aviation emissions, raised the Norwegian issue.
She said transatlantic cooperation has, to date, been very positive with transatlantic traffic growing 18% in the last decade, thanks to the Open Skies Agreement.
But she said the EU-US aviation sector is facing challenges from rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific region, and more transatlantic co-operation is needed to meet these challenges.
“We need a united EU-US front to decarbonise aviation and allow our respective companies to grow sustainably and tap into new emerging markets,” the commissioner said.
“Such a united front shall, however, not be put at risk by the failure of the US authorities to take a decision on NAI, after more than two years.
“I hope that actions will rapidly be taken to ensure compliance with the EU-US Air Transport Agreement and lead to a positive outcome for both parties.”
Meanwhile, Irish aviation and Cork business leaders will be Boston and Washington in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day in a bid to secure the transatlantic routes.
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