Why Norwegian’s Cheap Seats and High-Tech Planes Are Frightening Airlines and Politicians

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A Norwegian Dreamliner in New York last month

A Norwegian Dreamliner in New York last month

“Opponents have created a fear-mongering situation that we will operate NAI flights with Asian-based crew, completely ignoring the very public fact that NAI has no Asian-based employees and that we have submitted in writing to the DOT that NAI flights will only operate with U.S. and European crews,” said Lindström.

The company’s recent $18.5 billion order for new Boeing aircraft, with engines from Pratt & Whitney, will result in supporting and sustaining more than 90,000 American jobs, according to the Department of Transportation order granting a foreign carrier permit to Norwegian.

Given that it’s an election year, politicians have joined the cause as well. “The U.S. Department of Transportation should not be rewarding [Norwegian] with a foreign air carrier permit that would allow it to undercut the wages and benefits of airline workers throughout this country,” commented Bernie Sanders in a statement on his website. Sanders sees Norwegian’s entry as something that would threaten the entire U.S. airline industry. “We must do everything we can to prevent a global race to the bottom in the airline industry.”

Norwegian does have its supporters on both sides of the Atlantic, however. Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways parent IAG has voiced his support for Norwegian’s plans, as have three former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation, Andrew H. Card, Jr, Norman Y. Mineta, and Mary E. Peters, and the countless airports Norwegian already does, or would, fly into, among them Oakland International, Denver International, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International, and Orlando International.

The Transportation Department gave the green light to plans for Norwegian Air International, the Irish-flag subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, to operate flights to the United States from Ireland and other parts of the European Union in mid April. After consulting with the Justice and State departments, transportation officials said they found no grounds to reject Norwegian.

Boeing, which supplies Dreamliners to Norwegian (and multiple American airlines), indirectly came out in favor of Norwegian’s application last week. The Chicago-based company issued a statement directed at its South Carolina workforce saying it believed that opposition from the machinists union could jeopardize jobs at Boeing.

Under the headline “IAM Leaders’ Actions Could Cost Boeing New Orders,” the company said the union is “putting customers’ success and jobs on the line, and all employees ought to be concerned.”

Finally, many seem to have forgotten about the so-called “Southwest Effect” wherein low-cost airlines grow the market by encouraging more people to fly.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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