We’re here to stay say Norwegian Air

We’re here to stay say Norwegian Air
Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director of Cork Airport and Tore Jansen, CEO, Norwegian Air International. Pic: Brian Lougheed

NORWEGIAN Air are here to stay - so promised the airline's CEO just minutes before they launched the first ever transatlantic flight from Cork Airport on Saturday.

Uncle Sam, cheerleaders, American footballers, popcorn, ice cream and, even, Prodijig were on hand as Cork airport marked the beginning of the newest chapter in its 56-year history.

At 4.20pm on Saturday, a packed Boeing 737-800 took off amid a fanfare of water canons and spectators, headed for Providence, Rhode Island.

Or, rather, shortly after 4.20pm.

Pilots started taxiing at 4.35pm, with wheels up at 4.50pm.

The first transatlantic flight in the history of Cork Airport landed in the US less than seven hours later, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter for the entire Cork region.

While a handful of empty seats could be spotted on board, airport officials remained bullish about performance to date.

The inbound flight, which landed yesterday, was fully sold out, as are a number of other services over the coming weeks.

Interest and excitement in the US is as prominent as it is in Cork, according to officials from Cork Airport and Norwegian Air.

In all, more than 150,000 seats were sold by Norwegian across their entire Irish service.

Cork is one of the strongest performing airports, according to Norwegian CEO Tore Jenssen, who nailed his company's colours to the mast before the first flight took off.

Mr Jenssen said, "It's massive. To see how excited people are is wonderful and that reflects the bookings we have seen. We love this - it is exactly what we hoped for.

"Bookings are looking very good. Over our three Irish destinations, we have 150,000 tickets, and, out of Cork, it looks very good. For the coming days, bookings are looking great."

Reflecting on the difficult campaign to secure the licence, Mr Jenssen said, "It took us three years to fight to get this: we thought it would take us three weeks. It is fitting that we are launching in the rebel County - the longer we waited, the more sure we were that we had to fight it."

The Norwegian chief also moved to underline Norwegian's commitment to Cork amid suggestions that their focus lies elsewhere.

He said, "For the people of Ireland, without you this would never have happened. As the CEO of Norwegian Air International and I personally promise not to let you down on this: we are here to stay."

He added that New York and, potentially, other US or European flights are not off the table for Cork, but said that the focus is squarely on Providence for now.

Cork's Lord Mayor, Cllr Tony Fitzgerald was among those to mark the occasion on the day.

Mr Fitzgerald said, "I do not think we can overestimate the importance of this new direct service to the US."

He added that the flights will drive tourism and, as a knock-on effect, development in the city and wider Cork region.

This sentiment was echoed by airport managing director Niall MacCarthy, who hailed the flights as the 'next chapter' in the history of Cork Airport.

Mr MacCarthy said, "This will bring jobs, revenue and tourism growth directly to businesses and towns throughout the south of Ireland and grow our regional economy."

On the day, though, it was all about the passengers who were set to make aviation history.

Excited chatter on the plane and in the departures area of Cork Airport before take off focused on Boston, Cape Cod, Newport and the wider New England area, with many travelling to meet up with family in an area of the US that is dominated by an Irish-American diaspora.

While some were linking up with sons and daughters on J1s, others were meeting long lost cousins, introducing children to grandparents, aunts and uncles for the first time and, in some cases, returning home after settling in Ireland some time ago.

For David Kennedy, from Austin, Texas, it was simply the quickest and cheapest way home after an Irish holiday.

"I had no idea it was the first flight but it fun to be part of that aviation history. It is amazing to see a city this size with a transatlantic flight. I grew up in a small town in Arkansas with a population of 250,000 - it barely had a bus station, let alone a transatlantic flight."

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