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Europe – North America Aviation: New battle among airlines

Traveling between Europe and North America. Get ready for super low air fares.

Traveling between Europe and North America. Get ready for super low air fares.

Today’s ruling by the United States Transportation Department to authorize flying rights to Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA’s Irish unit, setting the stage for a new battle among airlines for leisure travelers across the Atlantic.

The order finalized a tentative ruling the department made in April and came days after the European Commission formally filed for arbitration over Norwegian’s request, which had languished for three years.
While Norwegian is already flying to New York and other U.S. cities, its ability to expand globally has been limited to the air rights that Norway has negotiated.

Not so for its Irish unit. Ireland is a member of the European Union unlike Norway, which means an Irish airline can tap into aviation rights that the European Union has secured.

Friday’s news gave Norwegian the chance “to open up a lot more routes from the U.S. to Europe” and onward to other destinations, Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindstrom said. The company now can start U.S.-Ireland service as previously planned, he said.

The long-awaited decision may have been slowed by protectionist rhetoric by candidates during the U.S. presidential campaign, said Brandon Belford, the Transportation Department’s former deputy assistant secretary for aviation and international affairs.

There was an outcry Friday by critics. While top U.S. airlines operate tens of thousands more flights, they have said budget carriers like Norwegian have pushed down their trans-Atlantic unit revenue.