US authorities, yesterday, dismissed an application, by Norwegian Air UK, for a foreign-air carrier permit to conduct scheduled and charter flights to the US, from London’s Gatwick Airport.
The airline is hoping to access more US airports under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement, so as to use its long-haul fleet more effectively, and offer lower fares.
UPDATE: Norwegian Air says US authorities continue to review the permit application for its UK operation. So technically, it's still pending— Eoin English (@EoinBearla) July 1, 2016
But against the backdrop of stiff opposition from labour unions on both sides of the Atlantic, the US Department of Transportation (DoT) dismissed the application.
It said it would not be in the public interest to grant it. The decision mirrors the obstacles faced by the airline’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), which plans to operate Cork flights to Boston and New York.
The DoT announced tentative approval, for NAI’s permit, in April, but a final decision is still awaited.
In its ruling on Norwegian’s British subsidiary, the DoT said the airline’s opponents raised significant issues and that these overlapped issues in NAI’s pending permit application: “The department has already characterised those issues as novel and complex in the NAI context, and it reaches the same conclusion as to the present proceeding.
"In these circumstances, the department does not find that granting of a temporary exemption to Norwegian UK is appropriate or in the public interest.
"Accordingly, the department is dismissing Norwegian UK’s request for an exemption, while it continues to review the permit application.”
Norwegian’s opponents welcomed the ruling and said they hoped it was a sign that the DoT would also deny NAI’s application.
However, a spokesperson for Norwegian stressed that while the British permit application had been dismissed, the US authorities continued to review it: “Norwegian UK is a recognised British airline, with a large UK base and the support of the UK government.
"Given Norwegian UK’s clear and legitimate right to a foreign-carrier permit, we therefore remain confident we will receive final approval.”
A spokesman for Cork Airport said they would continue to work with Norwegian, the Irish government, and the EU authorities, to secure a licence for Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary: “This will finally allow the commencement of the long-overdue Cork to Boston route, and, in due course, Cork to New York.
"The continuing delay in the US is simply unacceptable and contrary to the internationally-binding Open Skies treaty. We call on the US authorities to grant this licence without further delay.”