Norwegian Air Shuttle, the low-fare Norwegian airline with big ideas, marked the first anniversary of its U.S.-Europe service last week and we are inclined to say, "Many happy returns."

Unfortunately, it's not that simple. The carrier's future prospects on the North Atlantic are pretty much in the hands of our Transportation Department (DOT).

Norwegian, in case you need a brief update, is an airline of Norway and has been flying between the U.S. and Oslo and other points in Scandinavia. What it's trying to do is become an airline of the European Union (E.U.) and fly between the U.S. and London and other points in the E.U. To that end it has established a corporate entity in Ireland.

Neither Ireland nor the E.U. is standing in the way of this arrangement, but labor unions on both sides of the Atlantic have attacked the move as an effort to undermine labor standards that would have dire consequences.

We think the DOT's responsibility is to honor its open-skies agreements and allow competition to bring new services to transatlantic markets. Consolidation has reduced the number of airlines on U.S.-Europe routes and alliance agreements have further reduced the number of actual competitors. These aren't the only reasons why airfares are rising, but they are contributing factors.

In response to market developments, low-fare airlines have sprung up all over the world. We believe it's now the North Atlantic's turn.

As long as Norwegian is meeting all applicable safety standards, and there's no evidence that it isn't, we think the DOT needs to get off the dime and allow this initiative to move forward.
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