Congressmen call on Transportation Department to deny possible foreign air carrier permit from Norse Atlantic Airways

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U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Rick Larsen (D-WA), chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, called on the U.S. Department of Transportation Friday to deny Norse Atlantic Airways a foreign air carrier permit, citing fair labor standards.

In a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the congressmen said they were concerned that the founder of Norse Atlantic Airways is also the executive leader of Norwegian Air Shuttle, which formed Irish and U.K. subsidiaries to operate low-cost long-haul flights into the United States from European cities, and that Norse Atlantic will use similar labor tactics – operating flights using crews assigned to the carrier under third-party placement agency contracts – in order to get around Norway’s strong labor laws and protections.

“If Norse Atlantic Airways’ business model is predicated on the same flag of convenience concept that we saw in the case of Norwegian and its various alter egos, the public interest demands that the Department deny the carrier’s application for a foreign air carrier permit if it is submitted to the Department,” DeFazio and Larsen wrote. “Norse Atlantic’s application will give you the opportunity to make good on the new administration’s commitment to protecting U.S. jobs and promoting fair competition in international markets. We respectfully urge you in advance to take full advantage of that opportunity.”

Norwegian Air was approved for a foreign air carrier permit in 2016. However, the company’s structure proved unsuccessful, and the airline only saw a profit three times between 2016 and 2019, incurring more than $7 billion in debt. The airline entered into bankruptcy in Europe and switched its business model to low-cost flights within Europe.

Since then, the congressmen said, the company’s CEO has revived the business model to provide long-haul, low-cost flights between the United States and Europe.

The congressmen said the U.S.-E.U.-Iceland-Norway open skies agreement prevents granting of the foreign air carrier permit because the business model violates fair-trade labor agreements.