In his first public comment on Norwegian airline’s stalled licence application, Minister Shane Ross told global aviation leaders yesterday that the unprecedented delay by the US Department of Transportation (DoT) in granting the permit was not in the interests of the travelling public.
He told CEOs of some of the world’s largest airlines attending the AGM of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the World Air Transport Summit in Dublin that he has always been pro-consumer and pro-competition and that the liberalisation of the aviation sector since the 1970s has allowed increased competition and several new airlines to enter the market, providing customers with new routes, new and better services and lower fares.
But he told the airline bosses, whose airlines carry 83% of passengers worldwide, that customers’ needs should not get lost in the complex policy-making process at national and international level.
“From my perspective the needs of the customer should always be at the heart of aviation policy making; whether it be their safety, security, service or economic needs,” he said.
But he said it is apparent that there are “interests on both sides of the Atlantic” that would like to reverse the liberalisation process.
Referring to Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI) stalled bid to secure a US DoT permit to operate its planned Cork to Boston and Cork to New York flights, he said it was unfortunate that it has fallen victim to the wider global debate.
“To my knowledge this is the first time since the EU-US Open Skies Agreement came into force in 2008, that an airline has announced new transatlantic services to the travelling public, but has been unable to operate the services due to delayed Government approval,” he said.
“Clearly this is not in the interests of the many people in the Cork and Boston regions that are looking forward to using the new service.
“I look forward to the US authorities confirming its tentative decision to grant a permit to the Irish airline as soon as possible.”
Cork Airport welcomed the minister’s comments. A spokesperson for the US DoT said they are reviewing the entire record and giving careful consideration to the matters raised before reaching a final decision.
“There is no timeline for the department’s final decision and it must first clear ‘presidential’ review,” she said.