Norwegian – Europe's third-biggest low-cost airline – has leased office space close to Dublin airport and started hiring staff as it prepares to launch an Irish-based long-haul service.
The airline remains on track to secure an air operator's certificate from Irish authorities by the end of the year.
It aims to use the certificate to run a new budget trans- Atlantic service from an Irish HQ, helping it to bypass tight labour rules in Norway. Norwegian would probably base its long-haul business here, but would not have an operational capacity from Ireland. The base would essentially be an administrative arm. Its short-haul business would continue to be based in and operated from Norway.
A spokeswoman for the airline confirmed to the Irish Independent that Norwegian has "rented an office venue" here and started hiring staff.
Norwegian unveiled a number of new long-haul services yesterday. From next year, it will operate routes from London's Gatwick airport to Los Angeles, New York's JFK and Fort Lauderdale in Florida. It also announced a number of new services to mainland Europe from Gatwick.
The starting price for a one-way ticket with Norwegian to JFK from Gatwick is £149 (€176). But passengers will also have to pay £30 for a package that includes a meal, a baggage allowance and reserved seating.
While it's been previously reported that the airline already has a temporary air operator's certificate (AOC) issued by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the Irish Independent understands that that may not actually be the case. Norwegian applied for a permanent AOC from Irish authorities a number of weeks ago.
A spokesman for the IAA declined to comment on any application made by Norwegian.
But a spokeswoman for Norwegian confirmed that it remains the airline's hope that it will have secured the Irish AOC by the end of the year. She said the application process remains "on track".
The Irish AOC will enable Norwegian to employ pilots and crew who are from outside the European Economic Area, making it better able to compete by lowering its cost base.