US route ‘very important’ to Cork

The first ever transatlantic route from Cork airport is of “significant importance” to business and tourism in the Munster region.

Head of communications at Cork Airport, Kevin Cullinane, was reacting to comments by Enda Kenny at the weekend he would support measures to ensure the Cork-Boston route announced by Norwegian Air last year can get off the ground.

“It is a case of encouraging them to sign off on it and I hope that can happen as soon as possible,” said Mr Kenny. “We don’t have direct influence over it but we are in discussion with the authorities so that might be concluded. It would mean massive potential in terms of business for Cork and the region.”

Mr Kenny said all necessary permits from the relevant Irish authorities were now in place but that Foreign Carrier approval from the US Department of Transportation was still outstanding.

“Efforts are continuing at present by both the Irish and European authorities to secure the necessary Foreign Carrier Permit so that this service can commence as planned in 2016,” he said.

“Norwegian has also announced that they will enhance transatlantic services from Cork through the addition of a direct New York service in 2017 subject to the timely receipt of the necessary US permit.”

Mr Cullinane also stressed the impact a transatlantic route operating from Cork will have on the region.

“This matter is of significant importance to the multinational sector in the region, and the 750,000 US visitors who visit our region every year, with corresponding numbers going to the US, who would also benefit from direct services,” he said.

The route was announced last September by Norwegian Air, Europe’s third largest low-cost airline. The direct service is planned to operate five times a week from May using its Irish-registered subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI).

As Norway is not a member of the EU, it established the NAI subsidiary to avail of the Open Skies Agreement between the US and the EU.

The airline has said the proposed service would be the first phase of a planned expansion of its services out of Ireland and the UK.

The expansion also includes a proposed Cork to Barcelona service from May, operating up to five flights a week, and a Cork to New York service in 2017.

However, the transatlantic flights are dependent on the US authorities approving NAI’s application for a foreign carrier permit.

The airline lodged its application two years ago and is still awaiting a decision. It said it is the longest pending application of its kind.

“It is clear that there is huge support for these new routes from the Irish authorities, the airport, and the wider public,” an airline spokesperson said in January. “We urge the [US] DoT to finally give their approval which will unlock the door for these new routes, bringing greater competition, more choice and better fares for passengers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe also confirmed last month that he had discussed the matter with the EU transport commissioner in December and is optimistic that the European Commission will take the appropriate steps under the Open Skies agreement to help resolve the dispute.

Editorial: 10

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