White House gives backing to Cork and Shannon flights to America

The airline planning to launch low-cost transatlantic flights from Cork and Shannon this summer has welcomed comments from the White House backing its expansion to the US.

While Norwegian said it is still waiting for the US authorities to sanction a final licence before announcing route details and releasing tickets for sale, its CEO Bjorn Kjos told a Brussels briefing that the airline would serve one airport north of New York City and another in south Boston.

The firm expects its section 129 application to the Federal Aviation Administration to be processed soon and hopes to be able to formally announce routes from Cork and Shannon to the US within weeks.

The high hopes emerged after the White House suggested President Donald Trump does not intend to revoke the foreign carrier permit, granted to Norwegian Air International by the Obama administration last December, clearing it to operate from Ireland to the US.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the US had huge economic interest in the airline’s expansion.

The 61-day cooling off period, during which Mr Trump could have overturned the foreign carrier permit decision, has expired but he is still under pressure from US unions and members of Congress to revoke it.

When the issue was raised during a press briefing this week, Mr Spicer said: “My understanding, if I’m correct, that there is a deal in which they’re having 50% of the crews and the pilots are American-based. They’re flying Boeing planes. There is a huge economic interest that America has in that deal right now. I don’t want to get ahead of the president on that. But just to be clear, I mean, when you’re talking about US jobs, both in terms of the people who are serving those planes and the person who’s building those planes. That’s a very big difference.”

The issue is expected to be discussed again today when Mr Trump meets leaders of the US aviation industry.

Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune, a member of the EU transport committee, welcomed the White House comments. “For every 10,000 passengers that are brought through an airport, it has been shown to create 12 full-time local jobs and numerous other indirect jobs.”

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