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Decision on future of Cork to US flights is imminent

May 24th, 2016 11:50 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

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WITH the deadline for comments now closed, a decision on the proposed permit for flights from Cork to Boston and New York is now imminent.

The US government indicated earlier this year that it was open to granting the permit to Norwegian Air International (NAI) for flights between Cork Airport and the US.

However, US pilots’ and other transport workers’ unions launched a major campaign against the plan, alleging that NAI was using Ireland to launch low-fares routes to the US, driving down pay rates and standards in the American airline industry.

When the US government invited comments on the planned permit, it was forced to extend the deadline for submissions from May 6th to May 16th, such was the interest in the debate.

By the deadline this week, over 13,000 people had submitted individual comments, with the majority appearing to be in opposition to the permit.

However, following a plea by Cork Airport and other local business groups and organisations, there was a last-minute surge in positive comments, but it remains to be seen which group will win the day when the US reveals its ultimate decision.

There was bad news for Cork Airport’s UK routes last week when CityJet  announced it was axing its Cork to London City route from June 26th. The scheduled service was launched in a blaze of publicity last October. 

Executive chairman Pat Byrne blamed a lack of support for the route, despite promises prior to its unveiling. ‘In contrast to what we believed to be well-founded optimism when we launched this route last year, we are faced with the reality that demand for this service has simply not taken hold in terms of sustainable commercial viability,’ he said. 

‘All the indicators suggested there would be strong support from both business and leisure communities, especially in view of the very significant convenience of City Airport due to its close proximity to the City of London and indeed the West End,’ he added. ‘There is a cost of this convenience as London City is probably one of the more expensive airports in Europe for airlines from an operational standpoint.’ 

With the route now in its eighth month of operation, CityJet had been unable to achieve its passenger load factor and average fare targets, he said. He added that it was still firmly committed to operating its new summer routes form Cork to La Rochelle and Nantes and its charter series to Menorca and it will be in direct contact with all affected passengers who had booked London flights. Customers who booked via a travel agency will be contacted directly by their agency.

Cork Chamber reacted with disappointment to the news, describing it as ‘unfortunate’ for Cork. 

Earlier the Chamber issued a comprehensive and detailed letter to the ‘Friends of Ireland Caucus’ urging them to show support for NAI’s application. The letter urged the group of over 50 US political representatives, with close links to the Irish diaspora, to support NAI’s application on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of American and Irish consumers and business people who would benefit from the flights.

‘The Cork-Boston route was due to commence in May and had to be postponed. This is a highly unfortunate development for our economies and a missed opportunity,’ the letter said. 

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