Tore Jenssen, the chief executive of Dublin-based Norwegian Air International (NAI), was speaking as aviation history was made in Cork on Saturday with the take-off of NAI’s inaugural flight from Cork to TF Green in Providence, 90-minutes south of Boston.
“We have been waiting more than three years for this,” Mr Jenssen said.
“We have been battling left, right and centre for this and it’s fantastic to be in the Rebel county to launch the first service — it all makes sense to launch this out of Cork.”
NAI will operate the Cork-Providence service three times a week, year round.
Also on Saturday, it launched a daily service from Dublin to Stewart International in New York state, and yesterday launched its five-times a week service to Providence. Its twice-weekly service from Shannon to Stewart Airport launched yesterday, and it will today launch a twice-weekly Shannon-Providence service.
Mr Jenssen said they have already sold 150,000 tickets on the flights out of Ireland.
After an aircraft delivery delay, NAI has been forced to use Boeing 737-800s on the new routes.
But it took delivery of two of the larger and more fuel-efficient 737-Max aircraft on Saturday. They burn up to 15% less fuel. It will take delivery of four more Max aircraft over the next three weeks and will introduce them on the Irish routes soon.
Mr Jenssen said once they have completed initial performance tests, they will make a decision on the proposed Cork-New York route, amid concerns that the length of Cork’s runway may be an issue.
Airport managing director, Niall MacCarthy, praised all who had helped, on both sides of the Atlantic, the campaign to secure NAI’s licence.
“I am proud to say that we are Ireland’s and Europe’s newest transatlantic airport,” he said.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney hailed NAI’s investment in Ireland, but said it was a particularly great day for Cork which is now part of the transatlantic story.
“Now that it is part of that mix, we may well see other airlines looking at Cork because Norwegian have shown the way,” he said.
“This is going to be a very successful route. Many were sceptical at the start but the combination of the ambition of Norwegian Air, and the determination of management here at the airport to put a package together to make the business case, means people here have a fantastic new option at competitive cost to travel to the US.”
And he said while pre-clearance facilities at Cork would be helpful, they are not essential because systems at Providence airport are so efficient.
FF Cllr Tom O’Driscoll, who tabled a motion for City Council in 1992, calling for Shannon stopover to be amended to allow transatlantic flights to operate out of Cork, also hailed the new US service.
“This is the start of a new era for Cork Airport, and a new era for transatlantic travel out of Ireland,” he said.