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Cork could see US flights this year

Tuesday, 26th April, 2016 11:50am

Story by Siobhan Cronin
Cork could see US flights this year

Cork Airport.

FLIGHTS from Cork to the US could start as early as this year, following the long-awaited granting of the relevant licence to Norwegian International Airlines.

There was a warm welcome when the news broke last week that the US Department of Transport had granted permits for the planned flights from Cork to the US.

Kevin Toland, chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), said the permits had been ‘tentatively’ granted for Norwegian – the airline planning low fares routes to Boston and New York from Cork Airport.

He said he was hopeful that tickets would go on sale as soon as possible for flights from Cork to Boston initially and to New York in due course. In a press statement from the airline, chief executive Bjørn Kjos said that final approval, based on the Open Skies Agreement between the US and EU, ‘will be win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic. It will allow Norwegian to expand our US operations. Norwegian intends to continue hiring hundreds of American-based crewmembers, bring hundreds of thousands of European tourists to the US, continue to offer the American people affordable fares and efficiently utilise an $18.5bn order of planes from American manufacturer Boeing.’

Norwegian flies Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 737s on its routes between the US and Europe and a spokesman told The Southern Star: ‘We’ll have to wait for the Dept of Transport’s final approval to know more on the start date of the new flights, but it remains our hope to start the Cork-Boston route this year.’

Local businessman John Hosford, who has been campaigning for the flights, said he was delighted with the news. ‘I hope now for full approval at an early date,’ he told The Southern Star this week. ‘This is a confidence boost to the south west’s economy,’ he added, saying it could forge ‘mutually beneficial opportunities at both sides of the Atlantic’.

‘I commend the efforts of all in the DAA, Cork Airport, the Chambers of Commerce and many active local politicians.’

MEP Deirdre Clune said this week that Cork is now well positioned to dramatically increase its share of the US tourism market and that the region should be marketed more.

‘I am calling on Tourism Ireland to launch a significant marketing campaign in Boston, and later in New York, to sell Cork as a destination. Cork is positioned neatly between the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East and will now have direct flights to the US. … I think it is imperative that we seize this opportunity in Cork,’ she said.

Cork Airport’s managing director Niall MacCarthy described it ‘as absolutely fantastic news’ for the airport, the airline and the region. ‘We have worked so hard to make this happen over many months in both Washington and locally. I acknowledge the great support received from our local business stakeholders, local politicans and the Irish Government. I would particularly commend Cork Chamber for their solid support in these efforts.’

County Mayor Cllr John Paul O’Shea, who led a business and tourism delegation to Boston last December, said the new flights would play a significant role in the future economic and tourism development of Cork. ‘This flight along with other future US connections with Cork also has the opportunity for Cork to engage and encourage further partnership with the many diaspora living in the US. I look forward to working with all stakeholders in Cork in making this a reality.’

Council chief executive Tim Lucey also welcomed the news. ‘This presents a once-off opportunity that when delivered will need to be supported by Cork and the south of Ireland, and Cork County Council is ready to play a significant leadership role.’ Cork Chamber chief Conor Healy also welcomed the news.

The Department of Transportation’s Order is open for submissions by interested parties until May 6th . A final decision is then expected by May 13th.