Norwegian (DY, Oslo Gardermoen) may not get its wish of flying from Barcelona El Prat to Tokyo Narita, as the Spain-Russia bilateral agreement signed earlier this year only allows for Trans-Siberian flights originating in Madrid Barajas.

Speaking at a press conference in Oslo, Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said that air traffic rights are an issue for opening up new routes, reports El Periodico.

"We like Asia a lot (to open routes)," Kjos said. "But air traffic rights are the biggest obstacle to more competition in the air."

Although technically Norwegian is allowed to ply the Barcelona – Tokyo route, bypassing Russia would make it financially unviable to do so.

Kjos also criticised nationalist and protectionist moves. "Countries should stop protecting flag carriers through flying rights," he said, presumably referring to the fact that the rights for the Madrid – Tokyo Trans-Siberian route have been awarded by the Ministry of Development (Fomento) to Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas).

Norwegian's plans to launch South American routes are, however, progressing. The low-cost carrier announced that it has applied to open a Buenos Aires branch in order to facilitate flights between Spain and Argentina. Under the current Spain-Argentina bilateral agreement, flights between the two countries must be run by an airline based in one or the other. On these routes, it will be in direct competition with Iberia, Air Europa (UX, Palma de Mallorca) and Aerolineas Argentinas (AR, Buenos Aires Ezeiza).