OSLO Budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle plans to order more aircraft from Boeing and Airbus after its Irish subsidiary received long-awaited flying rights from U.S. authorities, its Chief Executive told Reuters.
After a three-year application process, the U.S. Transportation Department granted those rights on Friday, setting the stage for a new battle among airlines for leisure travelers across the Atlantic.
"There is no doubt we'll need even more planes after this," Bjoern Kjos said in an interview on Monday, adding that he expected the airline to place orders from both Airbus and Boeing.
Norwegian Air is working on new transatlantic routes from Irish cities like Cork, Dublin and Shannon, and plans to double its staff in the United States, he said.
"We expect to start flying from Cork and Dublin already next summer with at least four weekly routes," said Kjos.
"But there, we expect to add more routes, both from Shannon and also from some cities in Scotland."
Shares in Norwegian Air surged 12.4 percent by 1146 GMT on Monday in reaction to the ruling. It gives the carrier's Irish-based international arm the right to fly to the United States, and benefit from the European Union's aviation agreement with the United States, which is much more comprehensive than Norway's.
Kjos said he now expected the Norwegian low-cost carrier to open several new bases in the United States, with staff using such locations as their home base, in the coming years.
"We will now start working on establishing bases in Los Angeles and San Francisco. LA will most likely be in place in 2018 and hopefully San Francisco as well," said Kjos.
The airline expects to double the number of employees in the United States to over 2,000 in 2018, he said.
Last week Ryanair said it was in talks with Norwegian Air about feeding passengers into Norwegian's long-haul flights from large cities in Britain. Kjos said the decision from U.S. authorities on Friday makes these talks even more relevant.
"We are in talks with Ryanair right now where we are looking at the technical solutions. We hope to have a deal in place sometime next year", said Kjos.
"After that we would like similar deals with EasyJet and other airlines who want a cooperation", said Kjos.
Kjos said Norwegian would use European and U.S. crew on these routes, depending on where the hubs are.
"We will create a lot of jobs in the U.S. and we will fly in a lot of tourists who will spend a lot of money over there."
(Editing by Susan Fenton)