The head of low-fares airline, Norwegian, is facing a grilling before the Oireachtas transport committee over its decision to axe their Cork-US route for the winter just six months after its launch.
Bjorn Kjos, whose airline fought for more than two years to secure a licence to operate transatlantic flights from Ireland, is to be invited to appear before the committee, along with the head of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), as political pressure builds in the wake of Norwegian’s surprise decision last month to suspend the Cork to Boston/Providence service from October until next March.
The airline blamed lower demand and said it is part of a wider package of suspensions of winter services, which also hit Edinburgh and Shannon.
However, the airline has announced a significant expansion of its services out of Dublin Airport.
It consistently cited growth opportunities out of Cork Airport during its lengthy battle to secure a foreign carrier permit from the US authorities.
The airline was backed by a massive political and business lobby at regional, national, and EU level. This issue was even raised with Barack Obama during a St Patrick’s Day visit by former taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The decision to axe the Cork US service came just six months after its launch. The decision has cast doubt on the airline’s commitment to launch a Cork to New York service. Now, politicians who spearheaded the political support here and in Europe which helped secure the licence, want to grill the airline’s boss and DAA chiefs.
Seanad leader and Cork Fine Gael Senator, Jerry Buttimer, confirmed yesterday that the Oireachtas transport committee has agreed to his request to invite the Norwegian boss, and the head of the DAA, to appear before it: “It is important that answers are provided as to why Norwegian cut the Cork to Providence route in its infancy.
“I am happy to have received confirmation that the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport has agreed to my request that the CEOs of Norwegian Airlines and the Dublin Airport Authority appear before the Committee to defend the decision to cut routes from Cork and also to outline how the Dublin Airport Authority are going to make sure Cork Airport is allowed to continue to grow.”
Fine Gael MEP, Deirdre Clune, who advocated strongly at EU level for Norwegian to be granted the foreign carrier permit in line with the EU-US Open Skies agreement, has also written to Mr Kjos asking him to reconsider the decision, and to express disappointment at the suspension of the route for the winter, so soon after its launch: “I am very conscious that Norwegian must make its own commercial decisions but I must note that the licence for Norwegian Air International, which was so strongly resisted in the US, was headlined throughout the process on providing year-round transatlantic services from Cork to the US, and this received huge support from the political and business communities in the region.”
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