The head of one of Europe’s largest low-fares airlines has promised to shake up the Irish transatlantic market after launching 17 ultra- low-fares flights from Ireland to the US — including the first direct transatlantic route from Cork Airport.
Bjorn Kjos, the head of Norwegian, made his comments at the launch of the long-awaited service from Cork Airport to TF Green Airport in Providence, south of Boston, with one-way fares starting from €69.
He also announced four weekly flights to the US from Shannon — two to Providence/Boston and two to Stewart Airport, New York — and 12 flights a week from Dublin — daily to Stewart New York and five to Providence/Boston.
While record-low one-way fares of €69 went on sale yesterday, the average return fare on the Cork route is expected to average around €300.
“With the first ever transatlantic flights from Cork, we are shaking up trans- atlantic travel with ground-breaking fares and never before seen routes,” Mr Kjos said.
“The cost of transatlantic travel has been too high for too long so by connecting Irish cities with smaller US airports, we can offer some truly affordable fares, allowing as many people as possible to fly.”
The flights from Cork will operate three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. The flights will depart Cork at 4.20pm and arrive at TF Green Airport, Providence, at 7.05pm.
The flights from Shannon will fly to Boston/Providence on Monday and Friday, and to Stewart Airport in New York on Wednesday and Sunday. The flights will operate daily from Dublin to Stewart Airport, and five times a week — Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday — to Providence/Boston.
Mr Kjos said he is still “exploring” the launch of a service to the greater New York area from Cork — with expectations that it will be launched next year.
However, there was some concern that after Cork Airport’s work to secure the licence for Norwegian, the airline also chose to launch flights from Dublin and Shannon.
The DAA said market forces were behind the airline’s decision.
“Norwegian, like any of our customers, decide where they want to place their aircraft,” a spokesman said.
“Cork Airport put in a huge amount of work to get these flights, and that was supported by the DAA all the way.
“But it was always going to be the case that Norwegian would launch flights out of Dublin — the largest population base.”
Despite the concerns, the announcement has been hailed as a game-changer for Cork Airport, which has finally landed the first direct transatlantic service in its 56-year history.
“Norwegian will do for low-cost transatlantic services what Ryanair and others have done for low-cost European services,” Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said.
“On that basis, we are really thrilled with the news. Cork Airport, already the Republic of Ireland’s second busiest airport, is now also Ireland’s newest transatlantic airport.”
The routes will be operated using the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
Mr Kjos dismissed concerns about the lack of pre-clearance by saying his passengers will be through the secondary airports quicker than the larger airports.
He said landing at these secondary airports, and using the super efficient MAX aircraft, has allowed the airline offer the ultra low-fares.
However, the aircraft’s performance on the Cork-Providence route will be examined closely over the coming months amid concerns Cork Airport’s runway may not be long enough for a fully-laden aircraft flying to Stewart Airport.
Local Government Minister Simon Coveney praised airport management for delivering the first transatlantic flights.
“This is a breakthrough of significant proportions,” he said.
Conor Healy, CEO of Cork Chamber, described it as an historic day for Cork and the wider Munster region.
“It is an excellent opportunity to strengthen the business, cultural, and tourism ties between Ireland and across the Atlantic,” he said.
Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer, who has family in New England, booked seats on the new Cork service yesterday for €69 outbound, and just over €200 return. He said it was half what he paid for flights to the US last year.
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