The US Department of Transportation (DOT) says it has denied Norwegian UK (DI, London Gatwick) exemption authority while putting on hold its application for a Foreign Air Carrier Permit (FACP).

In a statement, the DOT said it would require additional time to study the various points of order brought up by several labour unions that had opposed the carrier's application including: the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA); the Transportation Trades Department AFL-CIO (TTD); the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA); the Transport Workers Union of America AFL-CIO (TWU); the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM); and the European Cockpit Association (ECA).

"The parties opposing the carrier's application have raised a number of significant issues, in many instances directly overlapping the types of issues before us in the still pending proceeding involving the permit application of Norwegian Air International (D8, Dublin Int'l)," it said. "The Department has already characterized those issues as novel and complex in the NAI context, and it reaches the same conclusion as to the present proceeding. In these circumstances, the Department does not find that grant of a temporary exemption to Norwegian UK is appropriate or in the public interest."

The most divisive aspect of the Norwegian (DY, Oslo Gardermoen) subsidiary's application entails the tentative use of flight and cabin crews sourced from Asian employment agencies and based in the Far East. The unions collectively claim that that employment model would circumvent Norwegian and European social laws and thus violate the terms of the United States' air transport agreement with Europe.

"That approach undercuts labor standards and thus neither encourages 'fair wages and working conditions,' nor 'strengthen[s] the competitive position of [U.S.] air carriers to at least insure equality with foreign air carriers.' As such, granting a foreign air carrier permit to a carrier with such employment practices would not be 'in the public interest,' as required under 49 U.S.C. § 41302, or consistent with the US-EU Air Transport Agreement."

Norwegian (DY, Oslo Gardermoen), for its part, has accepted the DOT's decision to prolong its review of Norwegian UK's application but is confident it will eventually prevail.

“Norwegian UK is a recognised British airline, with a large UK base and the support of the UK Government," a spokesman said. "Given Norwegian UK’s clear and legitimate right to a Foreign Carrier Permit, we therefore remain confident we will receive final approval.”