A Congressional panel approved an amendment on 27 June that seems aimed at preventing carriers like Norwegian Air International (NAI) from launching future flights to the USA.

NAI, which began US service this month after a lengthy delay, says the measure, included in a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorisation bill, would not impact its US service.

"The language amending the FAA reauthorisation bill would not affect Norwegian's existing flights to the United States or our plans for expanding flights in the future," says Norwegian in a statement to FlightGlobal.

The amendment, introduced by House Republican Frank LoBiondo, sets a new standard that the secretary of transportation would need to meet prior to granting some foreign carriers authority to launch US flights.

Specifically, the amendment would require the transportation secretary, to consider, when issuing foreign air permits, possible "erosion of labour standards associated with flag of convenience carriers".

Likewise, it would prohibit the secretary, in some cases, from issuing foreign air permits unless the secretary determines the airline will not "undermine labour standards".

The measure defines a "flag of convenience carrier" as one "established in a country other than the home country of its majority owner… to avoid regulations of the home country."

The legislation seems aimed pointedly at preventing a repeat of NAI's launch of US flights this month.

The carrier is an Ireland-based subsidiary of Norwegian.

US opponents, which included pilot groups like the Air Line Pilots Association,fought a pitched battle in recent years to persuade the Department of Transportation to deny NAI's air permit.

Opponents claimed NAI's parent company established the unit in Ireland to skirt Norway labour laws, and they said NAI's presence in the US would negatively affect labour standards.

Norwegian repeatedly denied wrongdoing, and the US government approved NAI's permit in December 2016, three years after the airline applied.

Norwegian says the latest legislative language "appears to be yet another attempt by special interests to evade healthy competition and raise costly procedural hurdles to new entrants in international markets".

"Norwegian fully complies with all the requirements of the US-EU Open Skies agreement and all US statutes and regulations governing air services provided by foreign air carriers," the carrier says.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved the FAA reauthorisation bill, including the amendment, on 27 June.

The bill, which still must pass the full House and Senate, contains several controversial provisions, including language that would remove air traffic control from the FAA, placing it under management of a separate corporation.

Source: Cirium Dashboard