THE boss of Norwegian Air has cast doubt on the possibility of a Cork to New York route, saying it is currently not feasible with the aircraft at hand.
Cork to Stewart International Airport in New York State had been scheduled to begin in 2018 following the launch of Cork to TF Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island this summer but that is currently looking unlikely, according to Bjørn Kjos.
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Kjos said the airline’s calculations regarding the runway length and the carrying of fuel and passengers meant Cork to New York was not possible at present.
However, he added that the airline had not given up hope, as it was working with Boeing on aircraft that could make the journey possible and that if their calculations finally added up, it would mean Cork flights to New York.
Cork Airport’s short runway by international standards has historically been the reason why most aircraft cannot fly transatlantic routes. Norwegian has calculated that a Boeing 737MAX can takeoff and land in Providence with the amount of fuel and passengers onboard but falls short of making it to Stewart, around 250km further inland.
He said: “The problem in Cork is the runway. If it was longer it is highly likely we could have done Stewart. Normally Boeing end up producing a better aircraft than the prototype but it remains to be seen if it is possible to fly to Stewart. If possible, we will do it. As it looks with the figures we have so far, it’s a little bit too far.” It all depends on testing the new aircraft this summer whether Cork to New York can be included in the 2018 summer schedule, according to the airline. Mr Kjos rejected claims that Cork was used as a political pawn for Norwegian to receive permission to fly from Ireland to the US, saying it was the first city he had looked at as they were exploring the possibility.
Critics said Cork stakeholders did all the running but that Dublin, Shannon and Belfast received the most benefit with far more flights.
“Cork was one of the first cities I ever looked at because a lot of people in the New York region originate from this area. There are a lot of Irish-Americans who have very close ties with that part of Ireland. It was no coincidence. We could have flown everything out of Dublin. I would reject that criticism because we are looking at catchment areas close to the Atlantic. Cork met that criteria and so did Shannon, and Dublin is a large catchment area. Passengers will always decide the number of flights,” he said.
Norwegian is currently exploring linking up with Ryanair to provide European-wide low fares to the US, he confirmed. Streamlining their booking systems was taking time and once they had the correct interface within both platforms, it could happen, he said.
“We want that possibility with Ryanair so that passengers can fly as an example into Cork and then with Ryanair go to Sicily or wherever they fly. Michael O’Leary is thinking the same as me — what is good for the passenger is always good for the airlines. If we can find a system where passengers can fly all the way with low fares, then super,” he said.
Mr Kjos was in Dublin to receive the Outstanding Contribution to Aviation award by the Irish Aviation Authority. Previous winners include IAG boss Willie Walsh and Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
*This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.