Former Secretaries of Transportation Urge Congress to Approve NAI’s Foreign Air Carrier Permit Application

May 11, 2016

Dear Representative:

In July 2014, we wrote to Congress expressing our support for Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application for a foreign air carrier permit. We encouraged approval of NAI’s application because it satisfies all legal and regulatory requirements in U.S. law and the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement. From our perspective as former Secretaries of Transportation, we relayed to Congress the importance of this agreement with our European partners as one of the most pro-growth, pro-consumer initiatives implemented by our government during the previous two decades.

We are writing to you today to reaffirm our support for NAI’s application, and encourage Congress to reject the desperate attempts by opponents of consumer choice to block much needed competition in transatlantic air travel.

We are pleased DOT announced its decision to grant tentative approval to NAI after more than 800 days of review. As part of its analysis, DOT took the extraordinary step of seeking legal guidance from the Departments of State and Justice. It is fair to say no foreign air carrier permit application has been subjected to such scrutiny. Ultimately, it was determined that U.S. law and the Open Skies Agreement require DOT to approve NAI’s application. Just as important, DOT’s tentative decision was a reaffirmation of the U.S. government’s longstanding support for open competition in air transportation.

Some in Congress, spurred on by special interests, seek to dismantle irrevocably the hard-fought victories America has achieved through Open Skies policy. We believe strongly this is a short-sighted and detrimental approach that will have longstanding negative consequences. The Open Skies agreements the U.S. has with nearly 120 other nations are engines of economic growth, and serve to create and sustain jobs all across America and give travelers more options. The U.S.-EU agreement, in particular, has broken down barriers and removed restrictions for U.S. carriers on the destinations, frequency and capacity of flights, and the fares they may offer their customers traveling to Europe.

Opponents of competition have irresponsibly branded NAI as a test case in their fight to stack the international aviation deck in their favor and return us to a bygone era of protectionism. Through this legislative approach, these opponents – many of whom have profited greatly from benefits of Open Skies – disregard completely the desires of consumers for access to more affordable fares and greater choice in air travel, and would expose the United States and our domestic carriers to lawful countermeasures by European aviation authorities.

These attempts to undermine Open Skies and NAI should be rejected soundly by Congress, and DOT should finish expeditiously the job of granting final approval of NAI’s application.
As we stated in our previous letter, we have no formal stake in the outcome of NAI’s application and do not know whether the carrier’s innovative strategy will succeed. We are certain that NAI deserves – and has the right under U.S. law and our international agreements – to be given the opportunity.



View the Letter