Norwegian blasts Nordics for “unlawful” competition

Airline submits formal complaint to European Commission

Norwegian is demanding equal conditions of competition in the Scandinavian aviation market and has submitted a formal complaint on “unlawful differential treatment in favour of SAS” to the European Commission and the European Free Trade Association Surveillance Authority.

The carrier alleges that discriminatory conditions and licencing practises are stopping it from getting access to traffic rights on the same terms as its competitor SAS. This different treatment generates “significant additional costs for SAS’s competitors in Scandinavia”, Norwegian says.

The airline criticises the Nordic region’s authorities for “grandfathered rights” given to SAS, “mainly because of the fact that its majority owners are the governments of Norway, Sweden and Denmark”.

It argues that it has applied for equal treatment and conditions on many occasions over the last five years, with no success. The rejections by the Scandinavian national aviation authorities are justified each time by SAS’s historically defined conditions, Norwegian alleges.

The issue at hand revolves around a joint Air Operator Certificate that SAS benefits from and that Norwegian is denied access to. Norwegian has not until now filed a formal complaint to the European authorities, “hoping and trusting that Scandinavian aviation authorities would create an equal set of rules for all the companies operating in the same market”.

Norwegian points out that the European Aviation Safety Agency has also criticised the special treatment, which it says is in breach of European law.

A competitive disadvantage for Norwegian compared to SAS is its limited access to traffic rights, or the ability to open new routes. The joint Scandinavian Air Operator Certificate (AOC), which only SAS benefits from, gives access to traffic rights both within the EU and the European Free Trade Association, an advantage not available to Norwegian as Norway is not a part of the EU.

If Norwegian had the same traffic rights, it argues, then it would be able to operate, for instance, between Helsinki and Dubai, London and Tel Aviv or Barcelona and Tel Aviv. Norwegian recently applied to the authorities to get access to these routes but was denied because it did not hold an EU AOC.

TTG Nordic

[photo courtesy Norwegian]

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