DALLAS -Norwegian Air Shuttle is celebrating a victory in its bid to expand flying between the United States and Europe.
The U.S. Department of Transportation gave preliminary approval Friday for service to the U.S. by Norwegian's Ireland-based subsidiary.
The Transportation Department says it will take public comments before issuing a final order that could allow the subsidiary to begin flying to the U.S.
The decision is a setback for the major U.S. airlines and their labor unions, who say that the Irish subsidiary will be an unfair, low-wage competitor on key trans-Atlantic routes.
The president of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), Capt. Tim Canoll, released a statement which read in part, "We are extremely disappointed by the DOT's intention to permit Norwegian Air International to fly to and from the United States because it is an affront to fair competition."
"DOT is proposing to allow a foreign airline to compete directly with U.S. airlines on long-haul international routes with unfair economic advantages," Canoll wrote. "Norwegian Air International has picked its place of incorporation based on whether that nation's tax and regulatory laws are favorable."
The Association of Flight Attendants union said it "strongly opposes this application as it sets a dangerous precedent for transatlantic aviation and risks thousands of U.S. aviation jobs."
For its part, Norwegian wrote that a final approval would be a "win-win for consumers and the economy on both sides of the Atlantic... Our continued presence in the U.S. will create thousands of jobs and generate tens of millions of dollars of economic activity for the Group's U.S. destinations."
"Norwegian intends to continue hiring hundreds of American-based crewmembers, bring hundreds of thousands of European tourists to the United States, continue to offer the American people affordable fares and efficiently utilize an $18.5 billion order of planes from American manufacturer Boeing," the airline added.