Opinionating at IATAAGM: Some People Don’t Get That NAI Is Irish, But At Least the Irish Do

What’s in a name? Evidently, everything.

For Irish carrier NAI (Norwegian Air International) the name is the problem.

NAI has been waiting for approval of its planned routes to the U.S., with a planned launch of Cork to Boston service for this year. The USDOT has granted preliminary approval but no final license. US detractors abound. Why? People are stuck on ‘Norwegian’.

Loads of other reasons are given: safety, unfair labour practices, flag of convenience, “they took our jerbs.”

None of these arguments hold water–even when made by US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

But, the Norwegian part of the name gives opponents fuel to claim that NAI is a flag of convenience.

Americans have been reported to find geography confusing, but they suspect that Norway is not in Ireland.

As a result, the Norwegian Group is held back from launching its Irish division–a delay which has now gone on for years.

It’s a troublesome technicality which would perhaps not exist were the airline named BearAir. I’m only suggesting that because everyone likes bears. They’re cuddly.

A Teddy Bear, Public Domain, Pixabay

The fact is, under existing Open Skies agreements between the US and Ireland, no other airline would be held back like this.

Even Ryanair–should it ever decide the time has come to launch a separate long-haul brand–could come in directly and crack the Atlantic wide open to Low-Fares Competition.

We know service onboard Norwegian Air Shuttle is rather good. Passengers like it. This is the Norwegian Group’s airline actually based in Norway, which already has permit to fly to the US, and flies to the US, and offers low fares. The airline’s low-fare model has not resulted in a low-quality offering. Their Economy class is plush and comes with state-of-the-art IFE systems. There’s mood lighting and lots of niceties.

What’s more pertinent to Americans is that Norwegian Air Shuttle and NAI are all Dreamliner operations. Planes built in the good old U.S.A.

Unless you’re the anti-American, Boeing hating, “I’d rather take a train across the Atlantic than fly a Dreamliner,” type, you’d find the passenger experience appealing.

NAI has promised to match its sister airline on cabin service and quality. It’s offering to hire US pilots. NAI pays its Irish staff in keeping with European labour standards which are frankly quite good–somewhat better than they are in the US as Bernie Sanders has also pointed out.

NAI will offer a convenient connection between Cork and Boston. (I’ve heard there are a few Irish people in Boston so this might be a nice way for them to get to see kin.) It will serve other Irish and U.S. airports, opening up more possibilities for low-cost trips to the Emerald Isle. But no. Sorry. Hasn’t happened.

Though the USDOT has said it really can’t find any good reason not to approve NAI’s license at this point, US opponents keep getting worked up that the licence might be granted to..wait for it..a Norwegian!

What did Norway ever do the US to deserve such fear and loathing? (On a related note: Norway-based Norwegian is now flying to Las Vegas from London.)

NAI’s application was never going to be easy, but this is getting silly.

Irish People are Keen to Fly NAI

Irish people are looking forward to flying with Irish NAI to the U.S.. As Norwegian Group reports in a poll of Munster residents:

  • 58% said they were aware of Norwegian’s plans for new U.S. flights from Cork and Shannon
  • 96% felt that it was important to have U.S. routes from Cork and Shannon Airports
  • 89% felt that a low-cost offering on transatlantic routes is needed in the Irish market
  • More than three-quarters (82%) of Munster residents said that, if they were to fly to Boston or New York in the next 12 months, they would use Norwegian’s proposed services from Cork

Nation-wide Ireland wants NAI service.

  • 86% felt that it was important to have U.S. routes from Cork and Shannon airports, with 64% agreeing strongly
  • 86% felt that a low-cost offering on transatlantic routes is needed in the Irish market, with 68% agreeing strongly
  • More than half (56%) of all Irish residents surveyed said that, if they were to fly to Boston or New York in the next 12 months, they would use Norwegian’s planned services from Cork or Shannon

Irish Aviation Grows Impatient

It was made clear at IATA’s Annual General Meeting in Dublin that the Irish Aviation community is growing impatient with this very awkward situation.

They’re nice about it–because they’re Irish–but it’s hurting Cork airport, it’s hurting the local Irish aviation industry, and it’s preventing the Irish economy from benefiting from the economic boost that NAI would bring.

You’ll find no Irish people here saying NAI’s not Irish. Regardless of competitive factors, they know what’s at stake is bigger than a little thing like a Nordic name. Erik is a Nordic name, and there are Irish people named Erik.

Ryanair’s in favour of NAI taking off to Boston. Aer Lingus is in favour of it–the airline’s CEO, Stephen Kavanagh, has openly said this competition would be good for Aer Lingus, keeping the airline motivated to stay sharp and at the lead.

The Irish Aviation Authority’s Eamonn Brennan–one of the most straight-talking Irishmen you’re bound to meet outside of Michael O’Leary before his recent teddy bear conversion–is in a positive huff about it. That’s because US opposition claims that NAI would compromise safety call into question the IAA’s integrity as a regulator.

The arguments against NAI are as weak as America Beer. (No disrespect meant to Belgians, but I understand their recently renamed beer is somewhat lacking in flavour, by Irish standards. I wouldn’t know personally. I don’t drink.)

My point is that–though the arguments are weak–they persist like the hangover which might ensue after your tenth pint of Guinness.

One can only conclude it’s the name.

Bjørn Kjos should have made the airline semi-eponymous. So BearAir? No.

If it is to fly, NAI will need to highlight the fuzzy wuzzies. Given the goings on, BearyAir would seem most appropriate.

A pair of Polar Bears get very affectionate, Public Domain, Pixabay

Marisa Garcia

After working for sixteen years in aviation, specializing in aircraft interiors design and aviation safety equipment, and getting hands-on with aircraft cabins in hangars around the world, Marisa Garcia turned her expertise into industry insight. She has been reporting on aviation matters since 2014. Every day, she's putting words to work.

Recommended Articles


  1. […] O’Leary also cited the difficulties Norwegian Air International’s has encountered establishing service as an Irish carrier on routes to the U.S. […]

  2. […] addressed these allegations, many times over. Answering them has failed to change the minds of those who oppose NAI or to influence those who have the power to allow NAI service from Ireland, and Norwegian UK […]

  3. […] of NAI-International license to operate direct flights from Ireland to the US. This decision will free the Irish airline to operate its planned launch flights from Cork to […]

  4. […] Irish Aviation is the big winner in all of this, as the country becomes an even more formidable force. […]

  5. […] argument always circled back to the characterization of NAI as a “flag of convenience”, which some argue does not apply in this case while others still insist on it even now after the […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: