Last updated: 09:39 AM ET, Mon April 18 2016

DOT Gives Tentative Approval for Norwegian Air to Fly to US

Airlines & Airports | Patrick Clarke | April 18, 2016

DOT Gives Tentative Approval for Norwegian Air to Fly to US

Despite strong opposition from U.S. airlines and their unions, the U.S. Department of Transportation tentatively approved Norwegian Air International to operate flights to the U.S. Friday, USA Today reported.

The tentative approval signifies that Norwegian is both financially and operationally fit to fly.

It's been less than three years since American rivals urged the DOT to reject Norwegian's request to fly to the U.S., citing safety and labor concerns.

However the DOT decided it would move forward with "caution and careful consideration" and has since revealed that it has no reason to reject Norwegian in wake of consultations with the Justice and State departments.

The DOT plans to finalize the approval later this spring but is seeking additional comment in the meantime. The deadline for opposition is May 13.

The Norwegian Group's CEO Bjorn Kjos said "a final approval, based on the Open Skies Agreement between the U.S. and (European Union) will be win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic," per USA Today.

While U.S. rivals are likely to disapprove of the DOT's decision, Business Travel Coalition chairman Kevin Mitchell said the move is likely to benefit consumers.

"Although the approval took over two years, today’s decision paves the way for Norwegian Air International's pro-competitive, low-cost transatlantic service," said Mitchell in a statement. "Consumers will be the notable beneficiaries of this pro-competitive development with new air travel choices and alternatives."

Officials at Norwegian told USA Today that it plans to continue hiring American-based crew members and buying dozens of Boeing 787 and 737 aircraft.

Although competing airlines and union will continue to oppose approval, U.S. airports set to welcome Norwegian flights in the future are in full support of the DOT decision.

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