Taoiseach Enda Kenny calls on US President Barack Obama to intervene. Getty / Rolling News

Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has called on President Barack Obama to put an end to the US government's delays in granting the permit Norwegian Airlines needs to establish a Cork to Boston route. Kenny appealed for “common sense” in dealing with the matter.

Kenny revealed he has twice spoken to Obama about the proposed new serivce, which look set to slash the current costs of air travel between Ireland and the US. The Taoiseach indicated he would also broach the issue with Obama’s successor after the November elections if it became necessary.

Despite making a tentative decision in April 2016 to grant a foreign carrier permit to the Irish-based airline Norwegian Air International (NAI)—a subsidiary of low-fares giant Norwegian Air—the US Department of Transport has failed to confirm the licence amid protests over the new routes from labor unions and politicians. Among the high-profile politicians who stand with trade unions against the permit is Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“We have had discussions at a European level and at an American level. You cannot get any higher than the American president,” Kenny said.

“It is not politics that is holding this back. This is not a political obstruction and obviously now there is a claim for this to go to arbitration.”

The European Union (EU) has already sought arbitration on the basis that the current delays are in breach of the Open Skies Agreement, an EU/US deal which allows EU-registered airlines to fly to the US from anywhere in Europe. By basing a subsidiary of their company in the Republic of Ireland, Norwegian Air can use this agreement to establish their new routes. {Norway is not a member of the EU.}

“If the matter becomes approved in the meantime, there will be no need for arbitration,” said the Taoiseach.

“But it is a matter for common sense to prevail here—for a situation that is in compliance with the ‘Open Skies’ agreement and that will have enormous beneficial results on both sides of the Atlantic.”

Norwegian Air plane on take off. Image: WikiCommons / Julian Herzong.

Norwegian Air plane on take off. Image: WikiCommons / Julian Herzong.

NAI originally planned to begin a Cork to Boston route this year and add a Cork-New York route in 2017. The direct service between Boston and Cork is expected to be offered by the budget carrier four to five days a week and cost between $300 and $350 for a round trip.

The Irish leader believes that the such a massive reduction in fares would have an enormous effect on tourism between Ireland and the US, comparing Norwegian Air to Irish budget carrier Ryanair in terms of the effect it could play on international travel.

“The opportunity for Norwegian to fly from Ireland to the States will have the capacity to do for long haul what Ryanair did for (European) short haul with enormous opportunities for both sides,” he concluded.

Read more: Ryanair boss says impasse on cheap US-Cork flights is “shameful”

The delays also come as a massive blow for Cork City, which has been battling for 25 years to establish its own route to the US.

“We have simply got to keep the pressure on to secure this service,” said Cork Senator Jerry Buttimer.

“Cork has been working for 25 years to get a transatlantic service and it is critical that Norwegian is allowed to deliver it.”

NAI first filed their application for the routes two years before the tentative decision in April and had hoped to launch the service this summer. As it stands, services would not be able to commence until after May 2017, with the decision expected to be pushed back even further until after the Presidential elections.

“In the year since Norwegian announced plans for transatlantic routes from Cork, we have seen tremendous support from the public, Cork Airport, the Irish Government, the EU and many others,” said a spokesperson for the company.

“It is frustrating, therefore, that ongoing delay by the US authorities is preventing Ireland from much needed new routes and the huge economic benefits they would bring.”

Despite polls showing that the opening of the routes is welcomed in Ireland, unions have accused the European airline of planning to source their employees in Asia, an accusation NAI has vehemently denied. The budget carrier is confident they are entitled to the route permit and that the matter will be resolved in their favor.

Read more: Large majority of Irish support Norwegian Air Cork to US flight plans

H/T: Irish Independent