Budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle said Wednesday it had obtained an Irish license for its long-haul routes, to the dismay of unions who argue it will ease the hiring of foreign staff.
The company said it had already transferred the first aircraft to the new EU AOC (Air Operator's Certificate) obtained from Irish regulatory authorities.
The aircraft belongs to its subsidiary Norwegian Air International Limited, which operates flights between Scandinavia and Bangkok and the United States.
Among the advantages of the certificate, Norwegian said in a statement that it will grant "access to future traffic rights to and from the EU", of which Norway is not a member.
Air transport unions claim that the airline intends to use the license to bypass Norway's labour legislation -- which restricts foreign staff on Norwegian aircraft -- and hire cheaper workers in other countries.
The company, one of the few low-cost airlines that have ventured into the long-haul segment, already employs some 200 Asian staff thanks to a temporary exemption, and is in the process of hiring 300 US citizens for its New York and Fort Lauderdale bases.
Accusing the company of "unfair competition", several US unions are lobbying to get the US government to reject a Norwegian permit application in the country.
In the statement, Norwegian reiterated that the application is regulated by the Open Skies agreement between the EU and the United States, "which means that an operator from either party, which fulfills the requirements, should be entitled to operate under this agreement".