Washington, DC – The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has rejected a ‘procedural application’ from discount air carrier Norwegian Air International (NAI) to temporarily operate in the US.
The decision is seen as a victory for US air carriers and their unions, which had vocally opposed the application, but the DOT said that while the temporary bid had been rejected, the agency would continue to “review the extensive record and deliberate on the application for longer-term operating authority.”
According to aviation industry analysts, the final determination by DOT probably won’t be announced until after the November mid-term elections.
Norwegian Air’s campaign to enter the US market became a magnet for opposition, not only from domestic US air carriers and their employee unions, but from a broad coalition of lawmakers from both parties on Capitol Hill.
More than 40 senators and 100 House members signed letters expressing their “concerns” about the deal with the House recently passing an amendment to the 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill in an effort to derail the airline’s efforts.
The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which has labeled NAI as “the wolf at the door,” praised the DOT’s decision, saying that, “The US Department of Transportation took an important stand for fair competition today by denying Norwegian Air International’s request for temporary authorization to fly to and from the United States.”
NAI – which is certified in Ireland and hires its pilots from Singapore – has said that the opposition to its application is protectionism, driven by the major airlines who control more than three-quarters of the highly profitable transatlantic market.
On the company’s existing US routes operated under a separate company called Norwegian Long Haul, tickets are, according to several sources, often more than $100 cheaper than the closest competitors’ fares.
NAI said in a statement it still expected to win final approval from DOT, but it was disappointed with the ruling.
“While we think it is unfortunate that DOT feels the need to further delay issuance of our permit, which has been pending now for over six months, Norwegian Air International stands behind its business — from its pilots and cabin crew to its affordable fare model to its desire to bring competition to the transatlantic market — and looks forward to receiving approval to operate without further delay,” said NAI CEO Asgeir Nyseth.