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The head of Norwegian has slammed the US Department of Transportation (DoT) for the long delay in approving its Foreign Carrier Permit, which it needs to expand its transatlantic operations.
Bjorn Kjos believes the delay in approving its UK and Ireland application is “simply fear of competition” from legacy carriers.
Norwegian currently flies B787-8 Dreamliners from Gatwick to New York JFK, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Los Angeles, as well as services to New York and Los Angeles, but the airline wants a licence to expand these operations.
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.
Speaking at The Aviation Club in London CEO Kjos said: “Through our UK and Irish operations, we have two ongoing applications with the US DoT for a permit, and both meet all requirements of the EU-US Open Skies agreement.
“Both applications are from recognised EU airlines; both have the support of the UK and Irish Governments; and both meet all requirements of the EU-US Open Skies agreement. And yet both have faced unnecessary delays by the US authorities.”
He added: “Our opponents will try to tell you that we plan to use low-paid Asian crew on our US routes to save money. This simply isn’t the case – we have made a firm commitment that any transatlantic routes would only use crew on UK, US or EU contracts.
“So what is the real reason for opposition to our application? Put simply it is fear of competition.”
In his speech Kjos also gave his backing for expansion at Gatwick, and said that Norwegian would base over 50 Dreamliner aircraft and 100 short-haul aircraft at the airport.
Kjos said that a new runway at the airport would “allow us to be even more ambitious in our plans for long-haul growth in the UK”, creating a “truly global low-cost network serving a range of established and emerging markets”.
He added that to feed long-haul growth Norwegian would also base two short-haul aircraft at the airport for every Dreamliner, a commitment which would see over 100 short-haul Norwegian aircraft located at Gatwick.
“These may sound like big numbers but they reflect the huge opportunities we are presented with - Gatwick is being ambitious in its plans for a 2nd runway, so it is only right that airlines should show equal ambition,” said Kjos.
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