ALICE, after falling through a rabbit hole, found herself in a world where nothing was what it should have been. Strangely, there’s a connection between Lewis Carroll’s excursion into whimsical absurdity and the fantasy world created by Norwegian Airlines and their Corkonian acolytes who promised flights from Cork to Barcelona, New York and Boston.
But Cork’s finest and dandiest – the Movers and Shakers – did not fall down a rabbit hole like Alice. Metaphorically they travelled upwards in a hot air balloon that reached a stratosphere of hopes and expectations until it was pricked by the Norwegians and the Dublin Airport Authority. Then, everyone came tumbling down to terra firma, much to the embarrassment of the adventurers and the discomfiture of the wider world of Leeside citizens.
Sadly, in spite of their efforts, all that the magnificent gents and ladies in their flying machine could boast of achieving were three weekly flights from Cork to a remote airport in the Boston area. The promised New York service turned out to be a far-fetched sequence of mental images, a daydream, as was the route to Barcelona.
The disbelief in the city was almost tangible and, oh, what a falling off was there for Lord Mayors, the Leeside Chamber of Commerce, a very prominent Fine Gael MEP, local and national politicos, Cork Airport and Dame Indakinny who had personally lobbied the President of the United States on behalf of The Real Capital and its troubled airport.
And, deliberately or otherwise, to rub Fine Gael’s Cork nose in the muck, Norwegian Airlines announced Shannon would get four transatlantic flights a week to the land of opportunity, Belfast five and Dublin twelve.
Immediately the penny dropped for political commentators: despite the herculean efforts of Cork Fine Gael – and it must be acknowledged that the heroines and heroes lobbied ‘tirelessly and honourably’ – Dublin Airport had ‘gazumped’ them. In doing so, it consolidated its ‘all-out and wholly-unhealthy monopoly of Irish aviation,’ as former government minister Alan Kelly put it.
The Leeside perception was that the Cork campaign had been used as a political pawn to facilitate secret efforts by Norwegian Airline to get US government permission to fly from Ireland. Cork did all the running but Shannon and Belfast benefitted more – while the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) walked away with first prize.
Interestingly, last year after the Irish Air Line Pilots Association (IALPA) opposed the plan on the basis that the Norwegian company was using Ireland as a flag of convenience to circumvent Norwegian employment law, the Mayor of County Cork, John Paul O’Shea denied that local politicians were being used as pawns. ‘We can see the benefits,’ he indignantly declared.
New York route
And then, last week, the boss of Norwegian Air, Bjorn Kjos, arrived on the scene. He had kept his light firmly under a bushel while our local Fine Gaelers were busy crusading for the goal of Cork to New York, Boston and Barcelona routes. Ironically, Kjos put the boot firmly into Cork as far as the New York route was concerned.
He announced that Cork Airport’s longest runway, 17/35, 2,133m (6,998 ft) was probably too short to accommodate the take-off of a fully-laden New York bound Boeing 737 Max aircraft. So, the likelihood was no flights to the Big Apple; and now he tells us!
Which raises this intriguing question: why did Kjos and his airline company encourage the Cork lobby to promote the New York flights when the planes owned by his company couldn’t make the journey in the first place?
Even more curious is why the meeja, such as the Indo/Sindo and RTÉ, did not pick up on the runway issue.
And it’s not that the length of the main runway was a closely guarded secret. Any adolescent plane spotter could have given Kjos details about the main runway, the 17/35, its exact length and the fact that there is little room for further expansion because the land falls sharply at the end of the runway (the runway already has been lengthened from 6,000ft to 7,000ft).
Indeed the problem facing Cork Airport is the topography of its sharply falling ground to the south of runway 17. The fact of the matter is that Cork Airport is limited to relatively short runways, which – sad to say – also limits its potential for long-haul or transatlantic travel. In other words, the airport cannot handle fully-laden large wide-body aircraft although on occasions chartered 747s have brought Munster fans to a big European match.
Nevertheless, such pernickety details were not raised publicly until last week by Mr Kjos. Nor, apparently, did the length of the runway ever concern the Fine Gael dominated lobby group. Ex-Minister Kelly is now demanding that the DAA ‘comes clean’ on the Norwegian deal.
In the meantime over-trustful and impressionable Corkonians – aren’t we all? – who had thrown themselves enthusiastically into the campaign, now are somewhat peeved at having been treated as goms.
Sale of the century
And now for something serious: Last January it was reported that Landmark Media Investments, the owners of the Irish Examiner, was considering an Indepenent News and Media (INM) link with the Irish Examiner – not an outright purchase, dontcha know, just a ‘link.’ Of course, INM (30 per cent owned by Denis O’Brien) would face serious competition issues and much concern from the literate public if that particular newspaper group sought an outright purchase.
In March, it was reported that The Irish Times was interested in bidding for the ex-old lady of Academy Street.
Last Sunday, the Sunday Business Post said both The Irish Times and the Indo/Sindo had entered into ‘an official sales process for De Paper.’ (The Examiner has a circulation of 30,000 copies, down 7.8 per cent on last year). Then, on Monday, the Indo/Sindo declared it was not in talks to buy ‘De Paper.’
Wow! What excitement! And what mental uncertainty and apprehension we’re experiencing as we watch this fascinating and mysterious situation unfold. As Willie Wonka said, ‘The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts.’
Concern in Dinty’s
Our man in Dinty’s: ‘Cripes, boy, did you ever see anything more tacky, naff, tawdry, dysfunctional, incoherent and gutless as the carry-on among Coveney and Varadkar as they vie for Kenny’s job, that of an honest-to-god harmless auld craytur who’s not dead yet (politically or otherwise), and who has no immediate intention of resigning as leader of that screeching bag of cats that wants his job and the loot. And, answer me this: does anybody really care if Tweedledee or effin’ Tweedledum gets the job?’
Here’s a joke that an air traffic controller is said to have cracked as a transatlantic flight attempted to land at Cork Airport: ‘Lufthansa 751 too fast. Turn right at end of runway, if able. If not able, take the Farmers Cross exit to Elm Hill. Then take a right at the roundabout to return to airport.’ He was sacked!