After a delay of more than two years, Norwegian Air Shuttle is finally getting its U.S. foreign carrier certificate, allowing it to serve more U.S. routes, and to use the U.S. as a waypoint on flights to Pacific and other destinations. The certificate has been opposed by competing airlines who dislike its low-cost flights and by airline worker unions concerned about Norwegian's using low-cost staff from Asia.
Norway is a member of the European aviation area agreement, allowing it to serve all EU countries although Norway is not an EU member. To take advantage of liberal 'Open Skies' agreements between the U.S. and EU, it has established subsidiaries in Ireland and the U.K. and asked for U.S. certification as an EU carrier. In response to labor complaints, Norwegian has agreed to use only U.S. and EU crews under the certificate.
In the meantime, it has been able to fly a number of UK to U.S. routes, as well as flights from Scandinavia. But not being able to fly under a single certificate—the one it applied for—means that it is not able to freely shift planes among routes, or to fly to Asia via North America.
The Department of Transportation has now ruled that while it hears the complaints, there is no legal basis for denying the license. There will be a period for public comment before the ruling becomes final. When it does, the airline expects to expand trans-Atlantic and Asia routes; it has already ordered another 30 787-9 Dreamliners, as well as more 737s.