Lawmakers urge feds to block Norwegian Air from flying to US

Lawmakers urge feds to block Norwegian Air from flying to US
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Some of the top lawmakers on the House Transportation Committee are pressing the Department of Transportation (DOT) to block Norwegian Air International from flying to the United States — a permit that the agency has tentatively approved but has not made a final decision on yet.

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The members on Wednesday urged Transportation Secretary Anthony FoxxAnthony Renard FoxxGeorgia Power says electricity at Atlanta airport will likely be restored by midnight Ex-Obama transportation chief on Atlanta airport power outage: 'Total and abject failure' To address America's crumbling infrastructure, follow Britain's lead MORE to deny Norwegian Air’s permit to operate in the U.S. because they say the airline skirts labor regulations and violates the international Open Skies agreement.

“This matter remains an opportunity for the U.S. Government to stop this race to the bottom and to protect open markets and fair play,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge the Department, in the strongest possible terms, to set aside the flawed tentative decision on Norwegian’s permit application and to deny the application.”

The letter is signed by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), chairman of the aviation subcommittee; and Rep. Rick LarsenRichard (Rick) Ray LarsenTransportation Department watchdog to examine airplane cabin evacuation standards Dems win nail-biter in charity congressional soccer game Overnight Finance: Trump signs repeal of auto-loan policy | Justices uphold contracts that bar employee class-action suits | US, China trade war 'on hold' MORE (D-Wash.), ranking member of the aviation subcommittee.

Norwegian Air Shuttle is a low-cost carrier that began in Europe and has been pushing to expand its transatlantic flights. But it has come under fire for hiring pilots contracted through Asia, where labor rates are lower, and for basing its subsidiary Norwegian Air International in Ireland.

Bjørn Kjos, Norwegian Air Group’s founder and CEO, emphasized in a blog post on The Hill that it will not be using any Asian-based cabin crew on transatlantic flights, and said Asian long-haul pilots for Norwegian earn about 96 percent of what long-haul pilots in Norway make, despite different costs of living.

After going to “great lengths to give full consideration” to all the issues, the DOT announced earlier this month it has no basis to deny Norwegian Air’s application to fly to the U.S.

Travel advocacy groups have generally applauded the agency’s tentative stamp of approval, arguing that it would spur much-needed competition in the marketplace and be beneficial for consumers.

The public comment period will be open through May 13, before the DOT finalizes its decision.