Norwegian hits back at US opponents

Washington DC
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Norwegian's new Irish subsidiary has hit back at US airlines and associations calling for authorities to turn down its application to operate long-haul service to the USA.

In a consolidated reply filed with the US Department of Transportation (DOT), Norwegian Air International (NAI) says the US parties have not provided a legal basis for the agency to deny its application.

Norwegian disclosed in October 2013 that it would base its new EU subsidiary, NAI, in Ireland, and plans to transfer its long haul operations to it. In December, NAI filed an application with the DOT for authority to operate flights to the USA.

The application attracted responses from four US mainline carriers, trade association Airlines for America, pilot association Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and labour organisation Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. The parties urged the DOT to deny NAI's application, saying it contravenes a section of the US-EU air transport agreement.

The parties also accused Norwegian of basing its subsidiary in Ireland to avoid higher labour costs and stricter labour laws in Norway.

In its response, NAI says the objections are "premised on a fundamental misreading of the text and purpose of the open skies agreement".

NAI adds that its flights to the USA will serve the public interest, and will provide competition on routes over the North Atlantic that were previously dominated by airlines affiliated with the three major airline alliances. It points out that planned service to Fort Lauderdale, Oakland and Orlando which have limited international service will encourage tourism.

NAI also disagrees with the US parties' citation of a particular clause in the US-EU open skies agreement, which they use in support of their argument that NAI will undermine labour standards.

The clause "does not define any mandatory or prohibited labour practices, nor does it empower a party, on the basis of allegations related to the 'social dimension' such as those asserted by the answering parties, to take unilateral action to deny operating authority to an airline," says NAI.

A denial of NAI's application would "send the wrong message" to other US open skies partners, it adds. "The Department should not turn its back on the compelling message of open aviation markets that it has promoted so successfully for two decades to the enormous benefit of American consumers," says NAI.