Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Blocking of Norwegian Air Violates 'Open Skies,' E.U. Official Says

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Blocking of Norwegian Air Violates 'Open Skies,' E.U. Official Says

Article excerpt

Slim Kallas, the E.U.'s top transport official, hinted at legal action if Washington did not grant the license to the budget carrier's American subsidiary.

The European Union's top transport official expressed deep disappointment on Tuesday with an attempt by American lawmakers to block plans by Norwegian Air Shuttle to offer new cut-rate flights across the Atlantic, and hinted at possible legal action if Washington failed to grant an operating license to the budget carrier's long-distance subsidiary.

"I think any decision not to allow Norwegian Air to fly would be entirely against the spirit of the open skies agreement," Siim Kallas, a vice president of the European Commission in charge of transport, said during an interview here, referring to a 2007 accord that liberalized air travel between the United States and the European Union.

Mr. Kallas's comments came one day after the United States Congress passed an amendment linking approval of a proposed budget request for the Department of Transportation to the department's rejection of the airline's request for a license to the subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, which received an operating license in February from Ireland.

His remarks also came as European and American negotiators met in Vienna on Tuesday to discuss a possible expansion of the landmark 2007 deal, which sharply increased competition across the Atlantic by allowing all carriers registered in the European Union and the United States to operate flights between any two cities in the United States and the 28-member European bloc.

Norwegian Air, which until recently specialized in low-cost flights within Europe, burst onto the global scene last year with cheap flights from hubs in Scandinavia to holiday destinations in Thailand and the United States. But its business model -- which involves basing some crew members in Thailand and hiring American flight attendants -- has angered labor groups and airlines in the United States, who say it gives Norwegian Air an unfair advantage. …

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