Norwegian Air received the permits to run its long-haul operations out of Ireland this week, but the service depends on also securing traffic access into the US. Chief Executive Bjørn Kjos said if that application isn’t approved soon, the budget carrier will either keep flying to the US on its Norwegian permit – or he’ll buy another airline.
Kjos told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv on Friday that continuing to operate on a Norwegian license wasn’t an option, because it imposed too many limitations. He said there are three or four European Union airlines that already have US access rights that Norwegian would consider buying, if the US Department of Transportation (DOT) doesn’t approve access within the coming weeks. Kjos said it’s unlikely the DOT would refuse Norwegian traffic rights, because that would violate an EU, European Economic Area and US free trade agreement. “And I don’t think anyone intends to do that,” he said.
US unions and airlines have lobbied the DOT to refuse Norwegian Air access. They’ve complained that by registering its fleet in Ireland, Norwegian would exploit an aviation agreement between the EU and the US to staff its intercontinental flights with cheaper Asian crews, gaining an unfair competitive advantage.
Norwegian Air reacted on Wednesday, saying registration in any European country would allow them to use US and Asian crews, as other European airlines do. It said only Norway and partly Denmark have “outdated special rules” over staffing.
The airline has special dispensation to fly newly Irish-registered planes on its Norwegian license until April 1.