Norwegian Air's move creates the first year-round international flights for the Rhode Island airport after years of expanding runways, building hotels and making a commuter-train connection. (Shutterstock/Svein Otto Jacobsen)
Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle is promising to boost traffic at smaller airports on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean when it starts service to Europe this summer from Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York.
Norwegian Air announced Thursday that it's opening new flight crew bases and plans to hire pilots and flight attendants at Rhode Island's T.F. Green Airport and Stewart International Airport in Newburgh, New York, about 60 miles north of New York City. Year-round flights from those airports to Edinburgh, Scotland, begin in June, and to four airports in Ireland and Northern Ireland in July.
There also will be flights to Edinburgh from Connecticut's Bradley International Airport, near Hartford. Officials who represent the three Northeast airports and their counterparts in Ireland celebrated the move as a boon for family vacationers, business travelers, and local jobs and tourism.
"Everyone would rather fly out of here than schlep to Boston," said Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo, speaking Thursday morning during a news conference at the airport in Warwick, just south of Providence and about an hour's drive from Logan Airport in Boston.
Norwegian Air's move creates the first year-round international flights for the Rhode Island airport after years of expanding runways, building hotels and making a commuter-train connection.
"People thought we were a little far-reaching, and finally all the pieces are starting to come together," said Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, a Republican.
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One-way flights bound for Europe started at $65 for the first 10,000 seats, but were already selling out Thursday morning. Once the introductory phase is over, flights will start at $99. Some Europe-bound flights were on sale for more than $300 on the airline's website Thursday.
The service includes flights to Cork, Dublin and Shannon airports in Ireland, and to Belfast in Northern Ireland.
The company won permission from the Obama administration in December for its disputed plan to expand flights to the United States, but did not receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration until Friday evening, spokesman Anders Lindstrom said.
Several large U.S. airlines and their labor unions opposed the expansion, arguing it would threaten U.S. jobs. They have accused Norwegian Air of getting around Norway's labor and tax laws by operating new flights with a subsidiary based in Ireland called Norwegian Air International.
The Transportation Department approved a foreign air-carrier permit for the subsidiary in December, but pilot unions and other opponents are pushing Republican President Donald Trump to overturn the decision. White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested earlier this month that the country would benefit from the arrangement because U.S. workers would build the planes and serve them.
Rhode Island state officials say they expect Norwegian Air to seek money from a $1.5 million state incentive fund designed to attract new commercial routes to the airport.