Norwegian Shrugs-Off Open Skies Delays

Following a decision by the US Department of Transportation to delay its approval of Norwegian Air International (NAI),  the airline has issued a statement that it remains confident it will ultimately gain approval.

“While we think it is unfortunate that DOT feels the need to further delay issuance of our permit, which has been pending now for over six months, Norwegian Air International stands behind its business – from its pilots and cabin crew to its affordable fare model to its desire to bring competition to the transatlantic market – and looks forward to receiving approval to operate without further delay,” said Asgeir Nyseth, CEO of NAI.

The airline also emphasised that the Open Skies agreement requires that permits be issued with “minimum procedural delay,” and reinforces its case by listing its allies:

Both the European Commission and the Irish Government have clearly voiced support for NAI’s application.  Norwegian enjoys strong support from a wide range of local communities, airports, consumer groups, and airlines as well as three former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation: Norman Mineta, Mary E. Peters and Andy Card.  In addition, major news organizations such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today have given their editorial support of NAI’s application.  “Norwegian Air International looks forward to bringing its award-winning service to the U.S., boosting tourism, and creating new American jobs.  It’s time to let NAI fly.”

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) has strongly opposed the approval of NAI’s application, issuing a number of announcements over the past year stating its objections.  After the DOT announcement yesterday, the organisation restated its opinion that the NAI request should denied.

“While today’s decision is extremely significant, the DOT’s work is not yet complete in making certain that NAI is not permitted to exploit international aviation policy and law to gain an unfair economic advantage over U.S. airlines,” Capt. Moak continued. “The DOT must take the next step and deny NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit to serve U.S. markets.”

ALPA also listed its allies against the NAI request in its press release:

ALPA has been joined by a broad coalition of U.S. and European airlines, labor organizations, and trade associations in adamantly opposing the NAI application. North American and European labor groups have also expressed opposition, including the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, the Transport Workers Union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the European Cockpit Association, the International Transport Workers’ Federation, and PARAT. The Association for European Airlines stated that serious questions regarding the NAI application needed to be answered.

The dialogue continues with this divisive proposal; the outcome of which could have serious repercussions to globalisation of service by other airlines.  An approval would set a precedent for Low-Cost Carriers to follow, and a denial would call into question whether Open Skies Agreements have any meaning if applications can be refused for competitive practices.  After all, as the Department of State indicates:

Open Skies agreements have vastly expanded international passenger and cargo flights to and from the United States, promoting increased travel and trade, enhancing productivity, and spurring high-quality job opportunities and economic growth.  Open Skies agreements do this by eliminating government interference in the commercial decisions of air carriers about routes, capacity, and pricing, freeing carriers to provide more affordable, convenient, and efficient air service for consumers.

Featured Image: Norwegian’s Boeing 737-800/Norwegian

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