Norwegian launches ‘cheapest ever’ transatlantic flights after long-fought battle

Norwegian launches ‘cheapest ever’ transatlantic flights after long-fought battle

Norwegian Air launched 10 new nonstop flight routes between the United States and Europe on Thursday, after a long-fought battle to win approval to fly to the U.S.

Beginning this summer, travelers will be able to fly on the low-cost air carrier’s Irish-based subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, to Ireland and Scotland for an introductory fare of $65 one-way, including taxes. The flights will go up to $99 after the sale period is over.

Norwegian will operate flights from T.F. Green Airport in Providence, R.I., to Cork, Shannon, Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh; from Stewart International Airport in New Windsor, N.Y., to Shannon, Dublin, Belfast and Edinburgh; and from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Conn., to Edinburgh.

The company plans to expand to other airports and increase route frequency in the future.

“This is just one step to getting more U.S. routes out to Europe,” Lars Sande, Norwegian’s senior vice president of sales, said in a telephone interview.

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Norwegian already flies to some airports in the U.S. under the banner of its parent company, Norwegian Air Shuttle. But the company has sought greater route flexibility and access to more Open Skies airports in order to offer the “cheapest transatlantic flights ever.”

“The wait is finally over for Americans who have been eagerly waiting for Norwegian to launch the cheapest nonstop transatlantic fares,” Bjørn Kjos, Norwegian’s founder and CEO, said in a statement. “We are constantly evolving and finding more exciting and efficient ways to make travel more affordable for as many people as possible.”

For three years, Norwegian has been seeking access to more airports in the U.S. and European Union by establishing a subsidiary in Ireland, a member of the European Union.

The Justice and Transportation departments have said that Norwegian’s application, which was deeply controversial in the aviation industry, was one of the most complex cases that they had evaluated.

The Obama administration issued final approval for the foreign air carrier permit late last year, roiling airlines, union groups and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

Critics say the company is attempting to skirt more stringent Norwegian labor and tax laws by establishing itself in Ireland, and claim the airline is undermining competition by hiring pilots contracted through Asia, where labor costs are lower.

Union groups representing pilots and flight attendants are suing to have the decision overturned, arguing that the permit violates labor protections contained in the international Open Skies agreements.

“The Administration’s decision to allow Norwegian Air International to operate in the U.S. is disappointing and undercuts key protections in place for working men and women,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said last month. “The labor movement is united and ready to fight to overturn the decision.”

But Norwegian, which has agreed not to use any Asian-based cabin crew on its transatlantic flights, will be predominately using U.S.-based crew and American-made planes for the new flight routes.

Norwegian will also be opening a base for its pilots and cabin crew and will station two Boeing 737-MAX planes at the T.F. Green and Stewart airports, which will create 150 additional jobs.

The company maintains that it established its subsidiary in Ireland for access to future traffic rights to and from the EU and to secure better aircraft financing rates.

While opponents are pressing President Trump to overturn the decision, Norwegian brushed aside concerns that its permit would be revoked under the new administration. In fact, White House press secretary Sean Spicer expressed support for the air carrier in a recent press conference, saying there’s “huge economic interest” in the deal.

“We are doing exactly what the Trump administration has asked: buy American and hire American,” Sande said.