Norwegian Air International (NAI) is considering launching services between the Republic and Hartford, Connecticut in the US, which would put it in competition with Aer Lingus.
Washington recently gave the airline, an Irish-based subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, permission to fly to the US, paving the way for flights from Cork and Shannon to Boston and New York.
A spokesman confirmed that Bradley Airport in Hartford is one of “three or four different airports” in the New York and Boston areas to which it is considering flying from the Republic.
Flying from the Connecticut airport would put NAI into competition with Aer Lingus, which launched a service between Hartford and Dublin in September as part of its transatlantic expansion.
Ahead of the launch, Aer Lingus chief executive, Stephen Kavanagh, said that the airline's Dublin service would be Hartford's first European route since the recession.
The city is almost three hours’ drive from either Boston or New York’s JFK Airport. Aer Lingus’s strategy is to exploit the fact that the airline can offer passengers from there connections to 30 European cities via Dublin.
Norwegian will initially offer a point-to-point service between the city and Irish airports. It is considering Hartford as it is a “secondary airport” and is thus cheaper than flying to primary gateways such as JFK or Boston’s Logan Airport.
NAI’s spokesman explained that the airline wanted to ensure that the transatlantic routes it is planning from the Republic are affordable, allowing as many people as possible to fly.
"A number of airports are being looked at while we finalise our plans but secondary airports in the US present us with an opportunity to offer some truly ground-breaking transatlantic fares to passengers in Ireland and the US," he said.
Bradley's executive director, Kevin Dillon, recently confirmed to media in the north eastern US that the airport was in talks with Norwegian. He was optimistic that the Scandinavian-owned carrier would reach a decision quickly.
Hartford is keen to lure more European business. Connecticut’s state government offered to guarantee Aer Lingus’s revenues if they fell short of expectations. Mr Kavanagh said it did not expect to call on this.
NAI intends operating a network of low-cost services between European and US cities. However its proposals are controversial. The US department of transportation took almost three years to grant NAI a foreign carrier’s permit as aviation unions on both sides of the Atlantic opposed the move.
They fear that the airline will hire crews on contracts issued by an Asian company, allowing the company to undercut rivals by avoiding protections available to workers hired under EU or US law.
However, the airline has denied that this will be the case and argued that its crews will be employed under either US or UK law, depending on where they are based.