The U.S. Department of Transportation on Tuesday declined to give discount long-haul airline Norwegian Air International (NAI) temporary approval to fly into the U.S. ahead of a permanent ruling.
Norwegian wants to bring the low-cost airline model to transatlantic routes, and has ordered 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners to fly its proposed routes. The ruling means the final decision on Norwegian’s application is still pending.
Current flights by parent airline Norwegian Air from Norway and from London to New York, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco are not affected by Tuesday’s ruling.
The company’s ambitious plans to fly tourists to holiday destinations in both the U.S. and Asia rely on the NAI long-haul unit, which Norwegian Air established in Ireland because that is a European Union member country with no restrictions on flights to Asia.
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But Norwegian’s request that the U.S. accept NAI’s status as an Irish airline, not a Norwegian one, has been hung up for nine months by stiff political opposition from U.S. airlines and unions.
A joint filing from American, Delta and United argued that Norwegian’s application to operate as an Irish carrier is merely “a flag of convenience” to avoid Norway’s labor laws and higher labor costs.
The Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) union in a filing said Norwegian’s model would “lower wages and working conditions of its aircrew.”
Norwegian denies the allegations. It has already hired more than 300 American cabin-crew members in Fort Lauderdale and New York and says its pay is superior to that of most U.S. airlines. It asserts that the opposition is aimed at stopping competition that could significantly lower passenger fares.
Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org