Plans to launch the first transatlantic flights from Cork Airport in May have been deferred.
Norwegian Airlines confirmed last night that continuing delays by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) on its Irish subsidiary’s application for a foreign carrier permit means it cannot launch the service as planned in May.
The delays have also forced the deferral of its proposed Cork to Barcelona service, which would have shared airline crews and aircraft with the proposed Boston service.
However, the huge low-fares airline, which has also voiced plans to launch a Cork to New York service next year, reaffirmed its commitment to introduce transatlantic flights from Cork Airport.
A Norwegian Airlines spokesman said it is not ruling out the possibility of launching the Boston service before the end of this year .
However, it hinges on the outcome of an arbitration process triggered by the European Commission which could take at least four months to reach a conclusion.
In a statement last night, Norwegian Airlines said: “Due to continued delays by the US Department of Transportation, our intention to begin flights from Cork in May is no longer possible but we still intend to start flights as soon as possible this summer.
“We will continue to fight for our clear and legitimate right for a foreign carrier permit and we welcome any steps by the Irish and European authorities to help resolve this issue.
“It is clear there is huge support for these routes so we urge the US authorities to put passengers first by finally approving our application.”
An airline spokesman said they are grateful for the huge support they have received from Cork Airport, the Irish authorities, and the public for its planned new routes.
“Not only are we fully committed to new transatlantic flights from Cork this year but we are also looking at options for further expansion in Ireland,” he said.
“We see several interesting route opportunities from Ireland, and look forward to offering both Irish and American customers new routes, more choice, and lower fares.”
The news came a day after the Irish Examiner revealed that the European Commission has invoked an arbitration process in a bid to break the impasse over the airline’s licence application.
Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), which has been cleared by the Irish Aviation Authority to operate under the terms of the EU-US Open Skies agreement, has been waiting an unprecedented two years for a decision from the US DoT on its foreign carrier permit application.
It is now the longest pending application of its kind in the DoT. The delay has been blamed on intense lobbying from US airlines and unions who are opposed to the low-cost carrier’s entrance into the US market.
The European Commission has consistently stated that there is no legal reason why NAI can not operate transatlantic flights from Cork under Open Skies.
European Transport Commissioner, Violeta Bulc, will be in Washington DC later this month for discussions with the US authorities on the decarbonisation of aviation and it is expected that the Cork-US flights issue will be addressed.
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