- - Tuesday, August 26, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Throughout the course of history, open competition has driven commercial organizations to innovate new products, services and technologies that give consumers greater choices for better products at greater value. In the United States, this simple principle has fueled the world’s largest economy, which consistently delivers superior offerings to American consumers and to the world. Market competition within any industry results in innovation, lower prices and greater customer service. Simply put, competition is good for consumers, and it’s good for industry: It drives us all to be better. The airline industry is no exception.

We at Norwegian Air International (NAI) — a lower-fare European airline — have been seeking to enter the U.S. marketplace with new services and provide traveling consumers what they want and, indeed, deserve: superior customer service, affordable fares, point-to-point service between the U.S. and Europe, and all on brand-new aircraft. We are seeking to provide travelers an option currently unavailable to them — a truly high level of customer-oriented service in new trans-Atlantic markets, coupled with lower fares and more competition.

We applied to the U.S. Department of Transportation for permission to operate trans-Atlantic flights to the United States, and yet our airline is still awaiting approval — four times longer than the average application by a European airline since the US-EU Open Skies Agreement took effect. American consumers deserve that the DOT approve this application by Aug. 31 — the date required under U.S. law, allowing for greater choice and additional opportunities for tourism to the United States. We have filed our comments with the Department of Transportation confirming Norwegian Air International’s support for the European Commission’s views that parties to the US-EU Open Skies Agreement cannot unilaterally deny NAI’s application to serve the United States on the basis of the so-called “social dimension” provision of the agreement. These views were further confirmed in a Joint Declaration of John Byerly and Daniel Calleja, who chaired the delegations of the United States and European Union, respectively, in the negotiation of the historic Open Skies Agreement,

At Norwegian Air International, we have adopted an adaptive approach to satisfy what has been identified as great pent-up consumer demand — particularly in an industry where the most notable changes in recent years have been a spate of large mergers and the establishment of global alliances. Competition in air travel most widely available to consumers has diminished as the result of a series of large mergers and mega-alliances between the biggest carriers. While these actions have provided some benefit to consumers, they have not delivered the type of consumer-oriented, cost-conscious service that Norwegian Air International seeks to offer.

In addition, Norwegian Air International is looking to help the U.S. economy, not only through boosting tourism, but also by creating more American jobs for both the travel and airline industry. We already employ more than 300 American cabin crew members in Fort Lauderdale and New York, and our crews in the United States are fully compliant with U.S. labor laws, while our crews in Norway and the United Kingdom are compliant with those nations’ respective labor laws.

Let me be clear. Contrary to what some of our opponents are suggesting, safety is our No. 1 priority. Norwegian Air International fully complies with all applicable safety standards, and its crews are trained according to EU standards — in addition to our own rigorous, supplemental training programs. The airline is subject to Irish oversight and as the Irish Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport conveyed to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, “our safety … regimes are based on EU law and also in accord with all applicable [International Civil Aviation Organization] requirements. Our safety-oversight regime has been recognized as among the best in the world by ICAO under the Universal Safety Oversight Audit Program.” Quite simply, there is no basis to question our commitment to safety.

Norwegian Air International offers a win for everybody: for consumers who benefit from lower fares made possible by lower fuel costs, for the environment as a result of lower carbon-dioxide emissions, for the creation of new American jobs, and for the U.S. economy that’s bolstered by foreign tourists who can now afford a trip to Disneyworld or even Yosemite.

Some want to prevent American consumers from having a choice and letting the free market offer new services for the public. At Norwegian Air International, we believe the decision should belong to the American consumer. It is time to open the skies for Norwegian Air International to fly.

Asgeir Nyseth is chief executive officer of Norwegian Air International.

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