Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, has called on the United States Department of Transport to confirm their tentative decision to grant a permit to Norwegian Air “as soon as possible.”

Cork Airport Managing Director Niall MacCarthy has welcomed his comments. Ross addressed the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 72nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) and World Air Transport Summit at the RDS in Dublin this week.

The Minister spoke about the importance of the airline industry moving with the times and market forces.

He said “Without the foresight of the policy makers in the past, international civil aviation would be nothing like it is today. As the global debate continues on the further liberalization of international aviation, it is apparent that there are interests on both sides of the Atlantic that would like to reverse the process.

“It is unfortunate that the Norwegian Air Group, a relatively small new entrant to the transatlantic market, appears to have fallen victim to this wider global debate.

“The airline is already providing new routes at low-cost between places on both sides of the Atlantic that have never had transatlantic services before. The Irish airline within the group also wants to provide such services: for example, the Cork to Boston route that was due to commence last month. However, the Irish airline has been unable to start operating these services because it is still waiting for a permit from the US authorities.”

On 15th April 2016, the US Department of Transportation tentatively approved Norwegian Air International’s application to commence flights from Cork Airport and announced that an extensive review by the US Department of Justice found no reason why the required license should not be granted. However, there are a number of vested interest groups, largely in the US, trying to block the license on competitive grounds.

Norwegian Air’s application has the support of the Irish Government, the European Union, Tourism Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Airport Council International Europe, European Low Fares Airlines Association, ECTAA - European Group of Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association and the US Travel Association. A number of Munster-based companies have also come out in strong support as well as local authorities, international airports, airlines and the travelling public from the South of Ireland.

Leaders of the global air transport industry who were gathered in Dublin today heard the Minister express his disappointment at delays in the process to grant permission to Norwegian Air to operate the transatlantic route from Cork.

He said “To my knowledge this is the first time since the EU-US Open Skies Agreement came into force in 2008, that an airline has announced new transatlantic services to the travelling public, but has been unable to operate the services due to delayed Government approval. Clearly this is not in the interests of the many people in the Cork and Boston regions that are looking forward to using the new service.

“The EU-US Open Skies Agreement has been a huge success and is an example to the rest of the world of the benefits of open skies. It has been good for airlines, passengers and wider EU-US economic and social relations.”

The Minister concluded by saying “I look forward to US authorities confirming its tentative decision to grant a permit to the Irish airline as soon as possible. Such competition is exactly what the Agreement was designed to achieve when it was put in place nearly a decade ago.”

The IATA AGM and World Air Transport Summit brings together CEOs and senior management of IATA’s 264 member airlines worldwide, who together carry some 83% of global traffic. Stakeholders from across the aviation industry participate in the event, including leaders from governments, international organizations, aircraft manufacturers and other industry partners. This is only the second IATA AGM to be held in Ireland, the first being in 1962. Nearly 1,000 delegates are participating in the event being hosted by Aer Lingus at the Royal Dublin Society.