Norwegian’s plans to expand with its Irish subsidiary Norwegian Air International got a boost from the White House today, with press secretary Sean Spicer saying the US has a “huge economic interest” in the airline's growth.
“There is a deal in which [Norwegian’s] having 50% of the crews and the pilots are American based, they’re flying Boeing planes – there’s a huge economic interest that America has in that deal right now,” he says during a press briefing today.
Spicer’s comments are the first by a Trump administration official on the subject of Norwegian.
They came in response to questions over President Donald Trump’s view of the foreign air carrier permit granted to NAI in December, during the lame-duck session of former President Barack Obama’s administration.
US labour unions continue to object to the move, claiming that the structure of NAI will allow the carrier to circumvent US labour laws and move jobs overseas.
Norwegian plans to open bases staffed with 200 flight attendants and pilots in Newburgh, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island, this year, executives have said. The crews would work flights to Europe aboard Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft that could begin as early as June.
"We’re pleased with the press secretary’s correct understanding of Norwegian and Norwegian Air International," says an airline spokesman. "No other foreign airline invests more in the American economy or creates more American jobs than Norwegian."
In addition to the planned bases in Newburgh and Providence, Norwegian employs 500 flight attendants at bases in Fort Lauderdale and New York, he says. It plans to add a pilot base in Fort Lauderdale this year.
“We’re talking about US jobs - the people that are serving those planes and building those planes,” says Spicer.
The press secretary cautions, though, that the president has not made a final decision on the matter.
President Trump will meet with airline chief executives on 9 February, Spicer confirms. He does not elaborate further on the meeting.
Spicer does not respond to questions regarding the president's view of the US mainline carrier’s complaints regarding Gulf carrier subsidies.
American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines claim that the Gulf carriers have received more than $50 billion in state subsidies, which has allowed them to dump capacity in the US market under the existing open-skies agreements with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways have all denied the allegations.
The Obama administration did not take formal action on the claims, which were made public in 2015, beyond informal talks on the subject with Qatar and the UAE.
American, Delta and United have not commented on whether their chief executives will attend the meeting with President Trump.