Direct Dublin-Beijing flights could become a reality

It all depends on Russia...

Norwegian Air International (NAI) is looking at running direct flights between Dublin and Asia.

Chief executive Tore Jenssen told the Irish Independent that his airline was looking at Beijing as a likely destination, but the route would require permission for overflights across Russia.

Chinese airline Hainan were reportedly gearing up for a similar service last summer, but Jenssen said their "very likely" entry into the Irish market would not deter Norwegian from establishing their own Far East route.

He said:

"It would be great for Ireland if both we and Hainan flew from Dublin to Beijing. Imagine the fares.

"I think there are plenty of Chinese who want to come to Ireland."

Jenssen did not give a timeline for securing a Russian permit, stating:

"We have a bunch of 787s coming. It's a complicated process to get them into service, so we probably need a couple of years to plan it.

"The business case will work, but we don't have specific plans as of now to start," said Mr Jenssen. "We'll focus first on the transatlantic."

 

One minor issue is that the runway at Dublin Airport is a "little short" for the full 787 Dreamliner but the airline boss does not believe it will be a significant obstacle.

Tourism Ireland chief Niall Gibbons recently told a conference on building partnerships with Asia that direct flights were "absolutely vital" for tapping into a potential $442bn Chinese tourism boom

Before Norwegian can look eastwards, however, it has to sort out its problems to the west.

Last month, a coalition of aviation unions in the US appealed against the US Department of Transportation's decision to allow Norweigan Air to operate flights between the US and Ireland.

They say the decision "systematically violated virtually every basic rule of treaty interpretation" in the US.

Unions have argued that Norwegian is trying to avoid the US's tougher labour rules by setting up an Irish subsidiary to employ low-paid crew, this claim has consistently been denied by the airline.

Democrat presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders even got in on the act,, registered his opposition to the granting of Norwegian Air's permit last year.

"We must do everything we can to prevent a global race to the bottom in the airline industry. If this permit is approved, it would open the door to the same 'flag of convenience' model that decimated US shipping," he said in a letter to the US Department of Transportation.

A Norwegian spokesperson responded:

"These are tired and false allegations already dismissed by the Department of Transportation's order last year."

"Opponents claim that Ireland is simply a 'flag of convenience'. In reality, NAI is headquartered in Dublin with 80 employees, 37 aircraft registered in Ireland, and already operates flights to and from Ireland, with many more routes planned," the company previously commented.