Champagne corks popped yesterday following confirmation from Swiss International Air that it will launch a service between Cork and the Swiss city of Zurich next summer.
However, the champagne is still on ice as the airport continues to pursue the foreign carrier permit for Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) proposed Cork-Boston service.
The airport’s management team was recognised for its work on the NAI issue and was awarded the Corporate Campaign of the Year prize at the inaugural EU Public Affairs Awards in Brussels on Wednesday.
Despite political opposition and objections to the proposed NAI service, Cork Airport has built a coalition of support on both sides of the Atlantic for the service.
In partnership with NAI, Cork Airport has gathered the backing of politicians locally, nationally and at European level through a structured lobbying strategy. It has engaged with US officials and politicians which ultimately led last March to a statement by US president Barack Obama that there was no political impediment to the service.
However, the US authorities have yet to sign off on the permit.
The airport’s head of communications, Kevin Cullinane, said they were delighted with the win.
“At times, it felt like the battle between David and Goliath; an international airport in the south of Ireland verses powerful American airlines and labour organisations,” he said.
“We have had to battle repeated false assertions in a way that was grounded in dialogue and mutual understanding on multiple levels.
“We remain very positive that we will see the first direct US-bound aircraft taking off from Cork Airport during 2017.”
Less than 12 hours later, the airport announced the new Cork-Zurich service, which will start on June 2 and operate until September 29, and deliver an extra 6,750 passengers next year.
Swiss will operate a 110-passenger Bombardier C Series aircraft, flying weekly each Friday from June, and increasing to twice weekly, with a Monday flight, in July and August.
Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy said that they have been working with Swiss for some time to secure the new route.
“Switzerland has been a target market of ours, primarily due to its close business and pharmaceutical connections with the region. But also, we have the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East, both right on our doorstep,” he said.
Pat Dawson, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents’ Association, said he is looking forward to promoting the route.
Swiss International Air, Switzerland’s national carrier, is part of the Lufthansa Group and is also a member of Star Alliance, the world’s biggest airline grouping.