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Obama urged to give Norwegian licence

Friday, 16th September, 2016 10:10pm

Story by Siobhan Cronin
Obama urged to give Norwegian licence

OUTGOING US President Barack Obama has been personally urged to grant Norwegian Air a permit to fly from Cork and Shannon to the US.

The US Travel Association, an umbrella body for heavy hitters in the American tourist industry, has written a letter to the president, seeking his support for the permits.

The Association names among its members such well known business people as the chief executives of hotel groups Hilton, Marriott and Choice, as well as the chairman of MGM Resorts and the American Society of Travel Agents. The letter was written in response to the prolonged delay in issuing the permits to the Norwegian airline, which has been planning routes to the US from Ireland for some time.

Norwegian was hoping to start its flights from Cork to Boston and New York this year and next, with similar routes from Shannon. But a concerted campaign by US airline industry unions has put pressure on the US government to reconsider its earlier indication that it would grant the licence.

Public submissions were invited earlier in the summer and despite weeks having passed since the final deadline, no decision has yet been made.

In its letter to President Obama at The White House, the US Travel Association requested the ‘immediate approval’ of the permit. ‘As leaders in the US travel industry that employs millions of Americans, we cannot over-emphasise the value of the connectivity created through our more-than 100 Open Skies agreements, both to the travel sector and to the broader economy,’ the letter says. ‘More access and better options to come to the United States brings more visitors that energise industry sectors across the economy through business and leisure travel, and foster public diplomacy.’

It notes that the US Department of Transport issued an order ‘proposing to grant’ approval for the licence, as far back as April 2016. 

‘In total, NAI has been waiting for over 900 days for the US government to take definitive action on its application – a wait time that is inexcusable given that the US-EU Open Skies agreement demands that DOT act “with minimum procedural delay” on these types of matters,’ the letter states, adding: ‘These delays also postpone potential economic benefits to the United States.’

‘As the European Commission threatens formal arbitration against the United States on NAI’s application, we ask that the US government quickly convene its interagency stakeholders to make a decision and avoid this process,’ it continues. ‘A long, drawn-out arbitration proceeding is unlikely to serve the interests of the United States well. The timely approval of NAI’s application is the right choice.’

It is thought that the letter comes at a crucial time in the US election campaign, as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is not believed to be in support of issuing the permit to Norwegian, the Irish Central website reported earlier this year.