US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has said there is ‘no political impediment’ to the planned Cork to US flights by Norwegian Air International (NAI).
The president was speaking after meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny earlier this week in Washington. The Taoiseach raised the issue of the delay in the US government issuing permits for the planned routes, from Cork to Boston and New York. The flights were originally due to go ahead in May from Cork Airport, but so far NAI has not been granted the relevant permit by the US Department of Transport.
It is believed that powerful US pilots’ unions are opposed to the flights, seeing them as a way of introducing low-cost crew into the American air industry.
Conor Healy of Cork Chamber welcomed Mr Obama’s response, saying the comment was ‘encouraging for the business and tourism community in the wider region’.
Mr Healy is currently visiting Boston and Washington DC meeting with political, business, and Irish community leaders in an effort to escalate the approval process, accompanied by Cork Airport chief Niall McCarthy.
Cork Chamber has called on the US to expedite the process. ‘It has been ongoing for more than two years and is in conflict with the spirit of the EU-US Open Skies Agreement,’ said Mr Healy.
Meanwhile the war of words between the Irish pilots’ union IALPA and the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) continues.
In a letter to Jim Daly TD, IALPA’s Evan Cullen says it is ‘of concern’ that a government body charged with safety regulation (the IAA) should ‘enter a debate on matters of employment’. IALPA has this week reiterated its claim that Norwegian plans to use Asian crew on its flights into the US from Cork.
This claim has been heavily disputed by the IAA, however, and this week it circulated a letter which Norwegian sent to the US Department of Transport, saying it would commit to only using European and US crew ‘except if compelled by extraordinary and unforeseen operational reasons’.
The IAA has also said it does ‘not wish to engage in a public spat with IALPA’.
Meanwhile IALPA has said it should be left to Norwegian to state its plans publicly, and ‘not an Irish government authority’ – the IAA.