Norwegian Air has booked slots to fly from Cork to Boston, from March 2017, despite there being no official approval of the route by the US Department of Transport.
In April 2016 there was a tentative decision to grant a foreign carrier permit to the Irish-based airline — the subsidiary of low-fares giant Norwegian Air. However, since then the US government has failed to confirm the license amid push back on the new routes from unions representing airline staff on both sides of the Atlantic, and petitions from Congressmen to block the move.
The Norwegian airline has booked slots from Cork to Boston for March 2017 and plan on providing $69 flights to the US once a new fleet of aircraft is delivered. The airline is waiting on delivery of 100 Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes, which will reduce the cost of transatlantic services due to state-of-the-art features like more fuel-efficient engines and upgraded aerodynamics.
A spokesperson for Norwegian Air told the Irish Independent “Not only are we are committed to launching the first transatlantic flights from Cork as soon as we're able, we’re also determined to make them as affordable as possible.”
Norwegian Air operates flights out of London to Boston for $157 each way, alongside other transatlantic routes. It was previously rumored that flights from Cork to Boston would cost a similar price.
The airline’s plan was to establish the Cork to Boston service in 2016 and then expand from there to including a Cork to New York route by 2017. Although these plans have now been delayed it seems the airline and Cork airport are confident the plans will be realized.
Chief Commercial Officer Thomas Ramdahl said “I can promise you that you will see transatlantic flights on the 737 Max next year.”
He added “And that’s when you will see the $69 fares.”
Norwegian Air first booked slots from Cork two-and-a-half years ago but the delivery of the route to Boston was delayed due to the opposition from unions and other interests in the US.
Despite these delays Niall McCarthy, Cork Airport's Managing Director, is optimistic the service from Cork will go ahead.
He told the Irish Independent “At this stage, I’m not expecting any decision until after the US Presidential Election in November.
He continued "Having already had to cancel slots it had booked with ourselves and Boston in May and October, Norwegian has now booked slots for March 2017, which is the earliest the new transatlantic services can take off.”
The Norwegian airline had hoped their low-cost Irish subsidiary would take advantage of the Open Skies Agreement, which allows European Union-registered airlines to fly to the US from anywhere in the EU. Their plan met with fierce opposition in the US from US aviation unions, airlines and some politicians. Norway is not in the EU.
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 Norwegian Air International have vehemently denied.