Norwegian Air International (Dublin Int'l) has suffered a set-back in its quest to start transatlantic flights to the United States after the US Department of Transportation (DoT) announced that it had dismissed part of the Norwegian (DY, Oslo Gardermoen) subsidiary's application for exemption authority and a foreign air carrier permit on the grounds that it was not in the public's interest.

The Irish carrier's application, filed in March this year, has encountered extreme resistance from both sides of the Atlantic with traditional carriers and unions accusing Norwegian of trying to circumvent stringent native labour laws by registering the carrier in Ireland. Irish labour laws would then allow for the outsourcing of crew jobs to a Singaporean agency thereby giving the airline a cost advantage over its competitors.

In its ruling, the DoT said while it was dismissing the airline's application for exemption authority, it would require more time to deliberate its foreign air carrier permit application.

"The Department typically reserves its exemption powers in awarding foreign air carrier authority to situations where the circumstances of a case are sufficiently clear-cut to permit acting, at least for a limited term, without the additional procedural protections of show-cause procedures and § 41307 review," the DoT's ruling read. "Because of the extensive record, which reflects the novel and complex nature of this case, however, the Department does not find that a temporary exemption is appropriate or in the public interest. Accordingly, the Department is dismissing NAI’s request for an exemption while it continues to process the applicant’s permit application."

Responding to the ruling, Norwegian urged the DOT to expedite its review and issue NAI’s foreign carrier permit fly to the U.S.

“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 Asgeir Nyseth, CEO of NAI.

The carrier went on to argue that the EU-US Open Skies Agreement requires that permits be issued with “minimum procedural delay.”

One of the applicants largest opponents, the AirLine Pilots Association union (ALPA), welcomed the move stating that the ruling as " an important stand for fair competition" but warned that the DoT should completely shut the door on the airline by rejecting its U.S. foreign air carrier permit application as well.

“Today’s decision puts the Norwegian Air International scheme on hold, but it doesn’t end the threat it poses to fair competition and U.S. aviation jobs,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “The DOT must heed the call made from so many in Congress from both sides of the aisle, labor groups on both sides of the Atlantic, and the European Commission’s own labor-management organization and deny NAI’s application for a U.S. foreign air carrier permit.”

According to the DoT the following entities endorsed Norwegian Air Int'l's application: FedEx Express (FX, Memphis Int'l); Atlas Air (5Y, New York JFK), the Travel Technology Association (Travel Tech), the European Low Fares Airlines Association (ELFAA), the Washington Airports Task Force (WATF), the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the Broward County Aviation Department and Fort Lauderdale Int'l Airport, and the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

The following entities objected to the application: Delta Air Lines (DL, Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson); United Airlines (UA, Chicago O'Hare); American Airlines (AA, Dallas/Fort Worth); US Airways (Phoenix Sky Harbor); as well as Lufthansa (LH, Frankfurt Int'l) and subsidiary Austrian Airlines (OS, Vienna); SAS Scandinavian Airlines (SK, Copenhagen Kastrup); Air France (AF, Paris CDG) and partner KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL, Amsterdam Schiphol).

It is also opposed by numerous U.S. labor interests, specifically the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the Southwest Airlines (WN, Dallas Love Field) Pilots' Association (SWAPA), the Transportation Trades Department AFLCIO (TTD), the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), as well as Captain Stephen Colman, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), the European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF), the Norwegian trade union Parat, and the Signatories to the Joint Declaration Against EU-Based Flags of Convenience in Aviation as Endorsed on 5 June 2014 by the Air Crew Working Group of the Sectoral Dialogue Committee.