A historic day for Cork. Seen celebrating the start of Norwegian’s year-round service to Providence at the Irish airport are: Niall MacCarthy, MD Cork Airport; Jonathan Ford, Assistant Editor, anna.aero; and Tore Jenssen, CEO Norwegian International. During the summer flights will operate three times weekly and in winter twice-weekly.
1 July was a historic day for Cork Airport, maybe the most important in its lifetime so far, as it was the day on which Norwegian launched flights to Providence in the US, marking the first-ever scheduled transatlantic service from the Irish airport. Flown on its 737-800s initially, until Norwegian accepts more 737 MAX 8s, the year-round service will operate three times weekly in summer (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays), while in winter it will operate twice-weekly (Thursdays and Sundays). anna.aero was invited as a guest to come and witness the day’s events at this historic route launch.
A long time in the making
It has been a long process in order for this flight to happen. The intention of services to operate from Cork to the US were originally announced by Norwegian last year, with the LCC wanting to commence in S16. However a few issues were encountered when trying to get US clearance for Norwegian to operate the flights. It was only at the St. Patrick’s Day meeting between the then-Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland Enda Kenny and then-US President Barack Obama in 2016 that things took a step forward, with Obama saying that there was no political impediment to the move. So with that affirmation, it means the new Norwegian service between Cork and Providence has the seal of approval from the US President. This encouraging move by Obama helped to speed up the process for Norwegian to be granted permission to fly to the US market from Cork, with the route being officially confirmed in February this year.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Niall MacCarthy, MD Cork Airport, thanked the team at Norwegian for partnering on the long and hard journey to deliver new direct transatlantic services from the Irish airport to Providence: “I would like to thank especially all of our stakeholders, on both sides of the Atlantic, who assisted us with their support to secure the granting of the licence. I also want to acknowledge the wider team here at Cork Airport, across our own and many companies, who work seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year, to deliver outstanding customer service to all of our passengers. I am proud to say that this great service from all our staff was recognised recently when Cork Airport won the “Best Airport in Europe” award of its class at the Airport Council International (ACI) Congress in Paris earlier this month.” MacCarthy added: “The official history of Cork Airport was last published in 2011 in a book entitled ‘Fifty Years Have Flown’. Today I am very proud to say that a new chapter can be added to that book and Cork Airport is now Ireland’s and Europe’s newest transatlantic airport.”
Benefit of the service to Cork
While the route is seen as a link between the cultural and historic connections that bind together the two regions, it also has a significant benefit for business relations. In the Cork area, there are over 150 overseas companies based or have offices, including major transnational corporations such as Apple, Amazon, Dell EMC, IBM, Marriott and Boston Scientific. In total these 150 companies employee 34,000 people. Not only that, but Cork has a catchment of 1.16 million people, representing 24% of Ireland’s population. The airport is also at the centre of two of Ireland’s largest tourist propositions, the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East. “During the first year we are expecting to welcome 38,000 passengers on this service,” commented MacCarthy, to anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford, during a meeting before the launch. “The current bookings are showing a 55% of traffic from the US, with the remaining 45% being Irish-originating. We think these levels will settle around 60% inbound and 40% outbound which is great, as it shows that not only people in Cork want this service, but US customers also want to come to South Ireland,” informs MacCarthy.
The red carpet and balloons were out to greet the first passengers as they checked in for Providence. The first flight was fully booked on 1 July, with the followings flights in the coming weeks also showing strong load factors.
While the first passengers checked in for the flight to Providence, the airport and airline held a photo call outside for the media, with cheerleaders and the American football team, the Cork Admirals, present. Also in attendance for the launch was Uncle Sam, who grabbed a shot with Niall MacCarthy, MD Cork Airport, and Tore Jenssen, CEO Norwegian International. Keen to show off his American football skills, and also taking part in the photo call, was Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald.
Once the official photo shoot had been completed, it was time for anna.aero to get in on the action. Two people that have been working hard behind the scenes helping to make this route possible, along with many more of Cork’s new services over the past year, are part of the airport’s aviation business development team. Seen posing with the Mustangs outside the Cork Airport terminal were: Daragh Hanratty, Head of Aviation Marketing; Jonathan Ford, Assistant Editor, anna.aero; and Mathias Richter, Aviation Marketing Specialist, Cork Airport. Along with this new service to Providence, other routes launched from the airport recently include SWISS’ twice-weekly service to Zurich, WOW air to Reykjavik/Keflavik and Volotea to Verona. Along with these impressive services from new carriers for the airport, a route to Cornwall Airport Newquay has also been started by Aer Lingus Regional.
Cupcakes were the order of the day in regards to the sweet treat celebrations, with them being displayed in the shape and colours of the US flag. Along with cupcakes there were chocolate-coated strawberries and sweet vol-au-vents, while a selection of American snacks were also on offer for those who preferred a savory rather than a sweet option.
Once photos had been completed and passengers had started tucking into the buffet, it was time for the launch ceremony to begin. The master of the ceremony on the day was Kevin Cullinane, Head of Communications, Cork Airport. Speaking at the ceremony was: Declan Hurley, County Mayor; Tony Fitzgerald, Lord Mayor; Tore Jenssen, CEO Norwegian International; Simon Coveney TD for Cork South-Central, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade; and Niall MacCarthy, MD Cork Airport. Coveney spoke of the importance that this new route brings to the region, in particular to the US companies based in the Cork area. “We thank Norwegian for the risks that it has took in starting this route. We promise that those risks will pay off and more,” said Coveney. “Now that we have this route that we have lobbied for years to get, it is now a case for people to use it or we will lose it,” he added.
Speeches completed, it was then time for a dance performance by ProdiJIG. Led by Cork-born World Champion Irish dancer Alan Kenefick, ProdiJIG rose to international fame winning Sky’s ‘Got To Dance’ in 2012. The group breaks all of the rules of what you’re supposed to see, hear and feel at an Irish Dance show. Forget the innumerable spin-offs of Riverdance, this feels, sounds and looks very different. Modern, streetwise, sexy, the revolution has a harder edge and allows for much more expression among the individual dancers.
Once the dancing had finished, anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford caught a moment with Kevin Cullinane, Head of Communications, Cork Airport. Ford would like to thank Cullinane for helping him come to Cork the launch of this historic flight. Also seen at the launch party are Kathryn O’Dwyer, Digital Marketing Specialist, Cork Airport, and Kathleen Walshe, Communications, Cork Airport. Ford would also like to pay a special thankyou to Walshe for helping with his logistics to make it to Cork for Norwegian’s arrival.
Now that the terminal celebrations had been completed, it was time to head out to watch the aircraft depart for Providence. anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford and Mathias Richter, Aviation Marketing Specialist, Cork Airport, headed up to the top of the old terminal, which is now the airport’s offices, to witness the historic take off roll. While waiting for push back, Richter grabbed his camera to get his own personal snap to remember the exciting day.
Time for the baptism. Once flight D81821 had pushed back, the airport’s fire department got into position to give the new service its official water arch salute. It was a very blustery day in Cork on 1 July, so the arch that has been put on by Cork’s fire department is very impressive given the weather.
The moment that everyone had been waiting for. Flight D81821 took off just a few minutes after its scheduled 16:20 departure time. With this departure, it confirms that Cork is now officially a transatlantic airport.