US approval for NAI

Norwegian Air’s Irish subsidiary is at long last approved to operate in the US

Photo: / Wikimedia Commons
You may be seeing a lot more Norwegian faces on planes in the coming years.

The Local

After three years of battles with both labor unions and its competitors, Norwegian Air Shuttle has received final approval to have its Irish subsidiary operate in the United States.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has granted Norwegian Air International (NAI) permission to fly into and out of the United States in a decision that took effect on December 2.

Norwegian has waited three years for the license, which was vehemently opposed by American unions, politicians, and domestic airlines who argue that Norwegian’s use of NAI, an Irish subsidiary, was designed to circumvent strict labor laws in Norway and use crews from low-cost countries.

Norwegian issued a statement calling the DOT decision “a victory for millions of passengers who will benefit from more choice and lower fares.”

The U.S. agency had given initial approval for NAI to operate in the United States back in April, but the proceedings hit numerous road blocks as competitors, unions, and politicians tried to block the deal.

Norwegian labor union Parat criticized the final DOT decision: “We know that Norwegian has used Asian labor and that they want to open routes and fly to other parts of the world. We fear that American and European workers will not have the chance to compete with wages and working conditions from other continents,” spokesman Vegard Einan told broadcaster NRK.

Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos called the approval “long overdue” and said it would now pave the way for the airline’s expansion plans.

“This means that Norwegian can continue its global expansion with full force and open new routes to exciting destinations worldwide,” he said.

American labor unions, however, may keep up the fight. SWAPA, the trade association for pilots of U.S. carrier Southwest, said it “strongly condemns the short-sighted, under-cover-of-darkness decision.”

“The men and women of SWAPA call upon President-elect Trump to intervene in the NAI decision and undo yet another trade blunder by President Obama,” the union wrote in a press release.

The U.S. Travel Association, however, praised the decision.

“The American travel community is ecstatic at the decision by the Obama administration to allow new service to U.S. cities by Norwegian Air International,” CEO Roger Dow said.

“There is zero downside to allowing more low-cost carriers into U.S. airports: it’s a policy that’s good for consumers, stupendous for U.S. economic and job growth, and even good for U.S. airlines because it broadens the market for domestic connector flights. A rising tide lifts all planes, so to speak,” Dow added.

This article was originally published on The Local.

It also appeared in the Dec. 16, 2016, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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