Michael O’Leary: Impasse on Cork flights to US is shameful

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary has branded as shameful the failure of US authorities to grant Norwegian Air International (NAI) a licence to operate new low-fares flights to the US from Cork.

Speaking at the US embassy’s Creative Minds series in Dublin, Mr O’Leary said the failure to grant the licence was the result of nothing more than a lack of “political will”.

“We don’t have deregulation and, without deregulation, you can’t really have long-haul. We have a stunning example of that going on at the moment. We technically have US-Europe Open Skies yet Norwegian are utterly shamefully being blocked, mainly by the lobbying activity of the pilots’ union on this side and the American pilots union in the States using the current elections as a means of forcing the [US] state department, or whoever it is, to not licence Norwegian to fly,” he said.

Mr O’Leary accused both the European and US authorities of lacking the will to grant the licence.

“Europe, of course, sits on its hands doing nothing except wringing its hands. The American state department — I don’t know which department it is — are doing nothing because they are afraid they might upset someone in Congress instead of telling them all to bugger off. Meanwhile, there’s no route between Cork and New York — nobody is flying it. So what is missing is not the technology, it’s actually the political will to make it happen,” he said.

Michael O’Leary

His remarks came as MEP and EU transport committee member Deirdre Clune called on the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, to intervene directly in the long-running NAI licence application by reaching out to US President Barack Obama on the issue.

Ms Clune said the application complies with the EU/US Open Skies agreement.

She said the fact “US authorities have left this file sit on a desk somewhere in the US department of transport is not satisfactory and a clear breach of the Open Skies agreement”.

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