Low-fare Ireland-US flights to be announced within weeks

Budget airline Norwegian is expected to announce low-fares US flights from four Irish airports within weeks.

The news emerged ahead of today’s deadline for any move by US president Donald Trump to revoke the foreign carrier permit granted to its Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), to fly between Ireland and the US.

The NAI permit was finally approved by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) on December 2 following a two-and-a-half-year wait — the longest pending application of its kind.

In granting the final order sanctioning the permit, the DoT said it would become effective within 61 days unless disapproved by Mr Trump.

A footnote in the order showed that the Obama administration did not intend to disapprove the order.

Given that the Trump administration assumed power in the meantime, there were fears the new president may take a different view.

Trade unions representing about 100,000 mostly airline and transport workers, including the US federation of labour organisations, the Airline Pilots’ Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, and the Allied Pilots’ Association, petitioned the US court of appeals to have the DoT permit decision reversed.

More than 100 members of congress also urged Mr Trump to reverse or halt the decision.

The 61-day ‘cooling-off period’ ends today, and sources close to the process said they do not expect the Trump administration to revoke the permit.

The DoT declined to comment in detail on the process given that it is now the subject of a legal challenge.

It is understood that NAI is now awaiting formal clearance from the US Federal Aviation Administration to begin selling tickets for its proposed Irish-US services.

Once the FAA issues the paperwork, the airline is expected to announce, next month, services to the US from Cork, Shannon, Dublin, and Belfast airports.

NAI is targeting a July launch date for its Cork-Boston services, with plans to launch Cork-New York next year. The flights will land at TF Green Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, about 112km south of Boston. The airline has promised ultra-low fares, with introductory offers from €69 one-way.

NAI declined to comment on the specifics but said a lot of preparatory work has been done since the permit was granted in December.

“With DOT approval in place, Norwegian’s focus has been on finalising our plans for new routes, greater competition, and lower fares in Ireland, Europe, and the US — exactly what we promised and exactly what the EU-US Open Skies agreement was designed for,” said a spokesman.

“In the next few weeks we expect to announce new transatlantic routes from Ireland and the US, offering some truly affordable fares that will allow as many people as possible to fly.”

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