US ruling hits Norwegian Air Shuttle’s long-haul plans

Irish subsidiary refused permit as US airlines fight Scandinavian carrier’s low-cost plans

US authorities have dealt a blow to Norwegian Air Shuttle's plans to offer low-cost transatlantic flights when they stalled a licence application from the airline's Irish subsidiary.

The Scandinavian carrier plans to operate low-cost long-haul services connecting Europe with the US and Far East using its Dublin- based subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, whose Irish licences mean it is covered by air travel agreements between the EU and non-European countries.

However, the US department of transportation refused Norwegian Air International’s request for a short permit that would allow it to fly between Europe and a number of North American destinations.

The department also said it would need more time to consider an application from the airline for long-term permission to fly into the US, although it did not say when it would issue its decision.


Norwegian Air Shuttle said the ruling would not affect existing services between Europe and the US, as it operated these under existing licences.

Pilots’ association

US airlines, including Delta, American and United


, have joined with the industry’s most powerful union, the Airline Pilots’ Association, to wage a campaign against Norwegian’s plans.

They claim that it is using its Irish licence as a flag of convenience to avoid labour regulations and hire low-cost workers. They have also questioned the Republic’s aviation authorities’ ability to police Norwegian Air International ’s compliance with safety standards.

Pilots association president Lee Moak said the department had taken a stand for "fair competition".

Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos recently branded rival claims as ridiculous. He argued that they are being put forward by organisations that want to limit competition on transatlantic routes.

A European Commission spokeswoman said the ruling went against the letter and spirit of the EU's aviation agreements with the US.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas