ATW | EU accuses US of breach of joint air transport agreement in NAI case

The European Union believes the continued delay by US authorities in processing Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application to operate to the US marks the first breach of the EU-US air transport agreement that was signed in 2007.

The European Commission called a meeting of the EU-US Joint Committee in Washington DC last week to “raise one issue of principle on which we consider that the US is not honoring the agreement: Norwegian Air International’s application for a permit to fly to the United States,” it said in a statement.

The Ireland-based international subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle currently uses a temporary license to fly to the US and is trying to obtain a foreign carrier permit with the backing of the EU executive.

The Commission said it “considers that there is a breach of the EU-US air transport agreement by the US authorities, regarding the application from NAI to fly to the US. The US authorities are taking too long to process the application and this delay is not compatible with the EU-US agreement. According to the agreement, the parties shall grant authorizations to carriers of the other party swiftly, which was the case in previous applications.”

The 2007 Open Skies agreement between the two blocs entitles EU airlines to operate to the US from anywhere within the 28 member states of Europe, with US carriers holding reciprocal rights for European operations. Norway is not a member of the European Union, so Norwegian is trying to establish a foothold within the EU for operating low-cost long-haul flights. The move is being resisted by US unions and airlines, which allege NAI is using its Ireland base as a flag of convenience that could ultimately erode safety standards and labor practices in the US aviation industry.

Following the meeting in Washington DC, the Commission said it will now “discuss the possible next steps with the EU member states.”

A further meeting of EU-US Joint Committee is scheduled for January 2015.

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