Norwegian, which announced its plans last September to launch a Cork to Boston service next May, confirmed last night that it is still awaiting a decision from the US department of transportation (DoT) on its foreign carrier licence application almost two years after it was submitted.
“Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application with the DoT is the longest pending of its kind — almost two years,” said a spokesman for the airline.
“The application is in full accordance with the Open Skies Agreement between the US and the EU, and the EU has urged the US to approve NAI’s application without further delay.
“We urge the 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.”
The airline said it would not be in a position to release details on fare costs or scheduling information on the proposed service until the licensing decision is made.
Aviation sources said concern is now mounting that the longer this process drags on, the less likely it is that the first transatlantic flights will operate from Cork as planned next summer.
Norwegian, Europe’s third largest low-cost airline, announced plans in September to launch new direct low-cost transatlantic services from Cork to Boston next year, operating up to five flights per week, as part of a major expansion of its services out of Ireland and the UK.
The expansion also included a proposed Cork to Barcelona service from next May, operating up to five flights a week, and a Cork to New York service in 2017.
The airline said it would operate the routes under Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, NAI.
It said at the time that its expansion plans relied on the US DoT approving NAI’s application for a foreign carrier permit.
Yesterday, the airline’s spokesman said: “Transatlantic flights from Cork are only the beginning of our plans for expansion in Ireland but these new routes rely on the US DoT finally approving Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit.
“It is clear that there is huge support for these new routes from the Irish authorities, the airport and the wider public.
“We remain committed to delivering new flights from Cork to Boston but these new routes rely on the DoT finally approving Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit.
“As soon as DoT approval is confirmed, we will be able to confirm pricing and scheduling information.”
Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell said the chamber is working with various stakeholders to ensure the approvals are obtained.
“It is important that once the approvals are secured, that the routes are marketed in the US from a leisure and business perspective,” he said.
If the carrier permit is signed off on, the new long-haul route from Cork to Boston will be serviced by B737-800 aircraft, with the proposed Cork to New York serviced by the new B737MAX aircraft.
A transatlantic service from Cork has been a long-term strategic goal of airport management for decades.