Breakthrough in US licence impasse for Norwegian Air
Cork may secure route to Boston as US signals it may issue permit to Scandinavian airline subsidiary based in Ireland
Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle, the carrier looking to offer long-haul low fares option to Asia and America out of Ireland.
Cork Airport looks set to get its first transatlantic service following a breakthrough in a dispute over the US government’s delay in granting a permit to an Irish subsidiary of Scandinavian airline, Norwegian.
Washington’s department of transportation yesterday proposed granting Irish-registered Norwegian Air International a permit that will allow it fly to the US, signalling an end to a two-year delay over the airline’s application for the licence.
The decision could allow the Dublin-headquartered airline to press ahead with plans to offer cheap flights between Europe and the US, beginning this year with a proposed Cork-to-Boston service, the first ever transatlantic route launched from the airport.
Norwegian established the Irish subsidiary in 2013 to offer long-haul flights between Europe, the US and Asia for as little as €300. The Scandinavian group registered the subsidiary in the Republic so it would be allowed to fly from anywhere in the EU to the US under the open skies agreement.
However, in 2014, Washington stalled on granting it a foreign carrier’s permit, preventing it from flying the US. Aviation unions there claim that it is using the Republic as a flag of convenience to employ cheap labour.
Norwegian’s group chief executive Bjorn Kjos says the Republic’s laws govern employment at the Irish subsidiary. More recently Norwegian Air International told both the US department of transportation and the Irish Aviation Authority that only citizens of the EU or US would crew its transatlantic flights.
Both the European Commission and the Government here have been working to resolve the impasse, but as recently as February, Brussels officials were conceded that the issue would have to be referred to arbitration.
Yesterday’s announcement still allows parties 21 days to make further submissions and a final decision will be made a week later. However, it was widely regarded as a breakthrough.
Reacting to the news, Mr Kjos said “a final approval, based on the Open Skies Agreement between the US and EU, will be win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic”.
Cork Airport managing director, Niall MacCarthy said it was heartened by the US decision that there was no legal reason not to award Norwegian Air International a licence to begin its Cork-Boston route.
However, US trade union leader Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, warned the decision could allow Norwegian to launch a “job-killing flag-of-convenience airline” that violates US-EU aviation agreements.