Norwegian to scrap EU long-haul airline plans?

Norwegian’s plans to build an international long-haul airline based in Ireland may be scrapped if it fails to gain backing from the US Department of Transportation (DOT).

The carrier launched flights to the US and Bangkok from its Nordic base last year, and in February gained an operating licence, enabling it to host the business in the EU, where it can operate under more favourable conditions and take advantage of the Open Skies trade agreement with the US.

The airline is currently operating under a temporary licence and is awaiting a decision from the DOT for a permanent licence.

The application for a permanent licence has been fiercely contested by some parts of the industry. They claim the main reason for the move is to bypass Norway’s strict labour laws, avoiding high labour costs and enabling it to employ cheaper Thai workers.

Norwegian denies this claim and said the move is to gain access to future traffic rights to and from the EU.

Bjoern Kjos, Norwegian’s chief executive, said: “An additional delay — or in the worst case, a negative decision by the US DOT — may regrettably force us to reverse our commitment to build an international long-haul airline in Ireland.”

Kjos also confirmed the delay in gaining the permanent licence has led to it suspending talks to purchase 20 Dreamliner planes from Boeing.

He said: “”Unfortunately, the delay in the DOT process has given us no other choice than to put our ongoing negotiations with Boeing to purchase 20 new 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft — due to be registered in Ireland — on hold until Norwegian Air International’s future in the US has been decided.”

Earlier this year, Norwegian ordered four more B787-9s despite issues with its Dreamliner fleet (see news, February 13).

Tom Newcombe

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  • Norwegian wanted an easy and short cut to emerge as a cutthroat airline and had given wrong feedbacks to the DOT in USA. After the visit to Oslo from the US Pilots Association, together with EU representatives, the table has turned. Now DOT has a more clearer picture the way Norwegian wishes to further its business. The Pilots Association has also gathered support from the US Congress who has put out a pedition against Norwegian Air Shuttle.
    It has also been a constant press towards its Scandinavian crew members. Norwegian is also putting there case forward by pressuring Boeing and the Irish government to take there case up with DOT or else they will be forced to move there business back to the starting point which is Norway. To show Norwegian means business have registered only one 787 in Norway and wants to see where the ball will go next? That would make sense, as from there on it could be a fair open sky competition with the other airlines. By this Saturday it is likely, Norwegian and Danish crew members may call for a strike as all negotiations have broken down last night. Norwegian wants to move its crew to a new company and later on manipulate the rules and just outsource the crew members without having direct responsibility with the crews. That would give Norwegian the benefit to cut down on salary and pension when they will no longer be responsible for the crew. By the way the crews are wanting the same agreement and deal that Norwegian has given to its pilots!!

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