Norwegian has submitted a formal complaint to the European Commission over unfair competition in the Scandinavian aviation market.
The airline has said the complaint, which is also being sent to the EFTA Surveillance Authority, is regarding “unlawful differential treatment” in favour of Scandinavian carrier SAS.
Norwegian said discriminatory conditions and licensing practices prevent it from obtaining access to traffic rights on the same terms as SAS, and the “differential treatment” generates significant additional costs for SAS’ competitors.
“Norwegian has for the past five years on numerous occasions applied for and requested equal treatment and conditions to no avail,” it said in a statement.
“Every time, the rejections by the Scandinavian national aviation authorities have been justified by SAS’ historically defined conditions and that its majority owners are the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark.”
Norwegian said the issue is around a joint Air Operator Certificate that SAS benefits from and that Norwegian is denied access to on equal terms.
Access to traffic rights
Norwegian also said a “major competitive disadvantage” is its limited access to traffic rights – or the ability to open new routes. The joint Scandinavian AOC, which it said only benefits SAS, gives access to traffic rights both within the EU and Norway.
“If Norwegian had the same traffic rights, it would be able to operate, for instance, flights between Helsinki and Dubai, London and Tel Aviv and Barcelona and Tel Aviv. Norwegian recently applied to the authorities to get access to these routes, but was denied because the airline does not hold an EU AOC.”
SAS told BBT: "SAS is a Scandinavian company with a Scandinavian AOC. Due to that, SAS pays operational license fees to all three Scandinavian countries, three times more expensive compared with paying operational fee to one country.
"It is correct that EU 216/2008 originally did not consider the common Scandinavian AOC, which have been active since 1951. But the dialogue between SAS and the EU is in good progress, so the map can reflect the actual landscape.
"The EU commission is now looking into multinational solutions which would fit a modern global aviation industry, and the Scandinavian AOC is referred to as a model."
Last month, CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle hit back at criticism from US airlines and unions that its move to build a transatlantic long-haul low-cost airline from a base in Ireland would undermine wages and working standards.
Bjorn Kjos said US airlines arguing for labour fairness are actually running scared of his carrier’s cheap ticket prices.