Management at Cork Airport and business leaders on Leeside have warmly welcomed the news that the US Department of Transportation has taken a significant step towards approving a licence for Norwegian Air International to operate a transatlantic service from Cork to the US.
Cork Airport Managing Director Niall McCarthy said the news that the US Department of Transportation had issued what is known as a Show Cause Order to Norwegian Air International to operate a Cork -Boston flight was a positive development towards beginning the service.
In the Show Cause Order issued on Friday the US authorities conclude Norwegian Air International appears to meet the Department of Transportation’s normal standards for award of a permit and tentatively determines that there is no legal basis to deny Norwegian Air International’s application.
The announcement opens a 21 day process to allow interested parties to make submissions, supporting or opposing the granting of a permit with a final decision then being made by the Department of Transportation within seven days of this submission period closing.
"We have been working hugely behind the scenes - I've been over to Washington several times and we have got great support from local representatives and from the Chamber particularly, from the councils and from the Irish Government, " Mr McCarthy told Cork's 96FM.
“But there was huge opposition within the US particularly from trade unions to the granting of this permit and it does show the Irish lobby is still a powerful lobby in the States and we have been successful in bringing it to where it is at but we have put huge work in.”
Norwegian Air International, a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttles, had announced in September 2015 that it planned to start flights from Cork to Boston in May 2016 with a further service from Cork to New York due to start in 2017 once it received approval from the US authorities.
According to Norwegian Air Group CEO, Bjørn Kjos, a final approval, based on the Open Skies Agreement between the US and EU, would be a win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic including in the US where it create thousands of jobs for American workers.
The company plans to continue hiring "hundreds of American based crew members and bring thousands of European tourists to the United States as well as take delivery of planes worth $18 billion from American plane manufacturer, Boeing. "
However Reuters has reported that trade unions such as the Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA) were critical of the move with ALPA president, Tim Cannoll saying Irish taxes and laws will give Norwegian "an enormous competitive advantage over US airlines."
The announcement was warmly welcomed by Cork Chamber Chief Executive Conor Healy who paid tribute to acting Taoiseach, Enda Kenny for raising the matter with president Obama during his visit to the White House on March 15th and to local Cork politicians for their support.