Ken McEldowney, Director of Consumer Action, today wrote an article for The Hill stating that “Airline regulations should work for, not against, consumers.” No one could argue with that, but what’s really interesting is that McEldowney’s article is really written as a strong case in favour of Norwegian Air Charter’s bid for access to US routes.
Citing industry consolidation of the major carriers in the US as a cause for concern (resulting in higher airfares), McEldowney doesn’t mince words. He refers to regulatory agencies as “misguided” and says “it’s high time that airline regulators switch priorities from protecting airlines to protecting consumers.”
McEldowney goes on to counter the arguments against granting Norwegian open access to the US skies in detail, citing Norwegian’s significant investment in US Aircraft ($11.4 billion), and blasting arguments against labor protection by pointing all airlines flying in the US are held to the same labor policy standards regardless of their nationality.
He closes his article by stating, “Regulation is supposed to protect consumers – not monopolies.” Ouch.
Norwegian is definitely committed to entering the US market, and to holding to their own particular spin on the Low-Cost Model, which includes plush leather seats and free WiFi. They have confronted critics from all corners, including at home, and don’t hesitate to face controversies head-on as I mentioned during a recent post on Norwegian’s move to Ireland.
As I also said on that post, we’d be wise to watch what comes next. Norwegian’s success would be a watershed. The application of open skies policy to their request, would open up all sorts of possibilities for other LCCs watching and waiting on the sidelines–for now.
It seems at least some DC pundits are willing to put their neck out in favour of Norwegian. Signs of a softening attitude in DC or just good lobbying?