The US and EU have an Open Skies treaty. Airlines based on either side of the Atlantic can fly from wherever they want to wherever they want, more or less.
However Norwegian Air’s subsidiary NAI – based in Ireland – was getting slow walked by the US government over its authority to operate. US airlines and pilots objected because of the airline’s low costs and low fares.
In April 2016 the Department of Transportation made a tentative decision to grant an operating license. But they didn’t give final approval — until this week, as pushed out on a Friday afternoon. (Good catch, @BrianSumers)
On Thursday the European Commission began formal proceedings against the US for violating its Open Skies treaty over the failure to permit Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary to operate as they’re clearly legally entitled to. (HT: Cranky Flier) A loss in arbitration would have meant retaliation against US airline operations.
Interestingly the DOT release that came out at the end of the day Friday indicates approval was granted on Wednesday, conveniently the day before the European Commission filed proceedings. So of course the US government couldn’t have been influenced by being called out for violating a treaty, it was doing the right thing all along, just slowed down in bureaucracy.
Norwegian has said they’d buy a bunch of Boeing 787s if approved.
Copyright william87 / 123RF Stock Photo
I’ve argued that it’s not the big Middle East carriers US airlines need to worry about competing against — it’s low cost airlines like Norwegian and Ryanair. Indeed, even without operations via the Irish subsidiary Norwegian is a big part of why we’re seeing deeper discount transatlantic fares than ever before – like $252 roundtrip.