EU urges U.S. regulators to allow Norwegian Air flights from Ireland

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union executive urged U.S. regulators on Wednesday to allow budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle to fly to the United States from Ireland, warning it may escalate the matter after two years of deadlock.

Parked Boeing 737-800 aircrafts belonging to budget carrier Norwegian Air are pictured at Stockholm Arlanda Airport March 6, 2015. REUTERS/Johan Nilsson/TT News Agency

Europe’s third-biggest carrier wants to expand its long-haul operations to the United States but has run into opposition from unions and some U.S. airlines who say Norwegian would undermine wages and working standards.

The European Commission has previously said that the delay constitutes a breach of the Open Skies air traffic agreement between the European Union and the United States.

The airline has relied on the fuel-efficient 787 jetliner from Boeing Co to keep its costs low and cut fares on trans-Atlantic routes dominated by traditional flag carriers.

Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary applied for permission to operate flights to the United States more than two years ago but the U.S. Department of Transportation has yet to approve it.

“I hope that actions will rapidly be taken to ensure compliance with the EU-U.S. Air Transport Agreement,” Violeta Bulc, EU Transport Commissioner, said in a statement after meetings in Washington D.C.

“The EU is seriously considering all available options to swiftly solve the issue.”

That could mean submitting an arbitration request to resolve the dispute, something that has never been done before.

Norwegian currently flies to the United States from Norway and elsewhere in Europe, including Britain, on its Norwegian operating license.

It has asked for permission to fly on its UK operating license, but that has also been delayed.

Pending the U.S. approval, the carrier has had to delay a new service from Cork, Ireland, while it will start direct flights between Paris and the United States.

Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Mark Heinrich