Norwegian Air International, Norwegian Air Shuttle’s Ireland-based long-haul subsidiary, has won tentative approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to serve the United States.
The DOT issued an order on April 15 proposing to grant a foreign air carrier permit to Norwegian Air International.
Norwegian Group’s Irish subsidiary has been blocked for years from obtaining approval to serve the U.S. from Europe by protectionist lobbying by airline joint ventures among U.S. and European Union-based carriers.
The three major airline transatlantic joint ventures – each of which is aligned with a different global airline alliance – boast about 80 per cent market dominance on all transatlantic routes between Europe and North America.
However, claiming that Norwegian Air International planned to hire cabin crew and flight crew personnel only from countries with low wages and lax labor laws, they and their pilot unions have long lobbied the U.S. Congress and the European Commission not to grant Ireland-based Norwegian Air International rights to fly between Europe and the U.S.
Buckling to this pressure, the DOT has stalled over making any decision, until now.
When made final, the DOT-issued permit will allow Norwegian Air International to begin operations to the U.S., according to Norwegian Group.
These will include the first-ever service between Boston and Cork in Ireland, the airline group says.
“A final approval, based on the Open Skies Agreement between the U.S. and EU, will be win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic,” says Bjørn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Group.
“It will allow Norwegian to expand our U.S. operations,” adds Kjos. “Our continued presence in the U.S. will create thousands of jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars of economic activity for the group’s U.S. destinations.”
According to Norwegian, its Irish long-haul subsidiary intends to hire hundreds of American-based crewmembers, bring hundreds of thousands of European tourists to the United States, offer the American population affordable fares and efficiently deploy an $18.5 billion order of aircraft from U.S.-based manufacturer Boeing.
Norwegian currently has firm orders outstanding for 149 Boeing aircraft, 737s and 787s, valued at more than $18.5 billion at current list prices.
During the past seven years, Norwegian has taken delivery of 103 new Boeing aircraft as a result of direct orders and lease agreements.
Norwegian already operates a growing range of services between Europe and North America in its own name.
It is allowed to do so because of Norway’s inclusion in the multilateral air services agreement between the European Union and the United States, even though Norway is not a member of the EU.
(The same applies to Swiss International Air Lines: Like Norway, Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but both countries are signatories to the multilateral trade agreements which allow free trade among almost all European nations and with the United States.)
Norwegian Air Shuttle, Norwegian Group’s primary airline, has made particularly imaginative use of the EU-U.S. multilateral air services agreement.
With Boeing 737-800s, it operates scheduled winter-season services from Boston and New York JFK to the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique in the Caribbean. As French overseas departments, the two islands officially form part of the European Union.