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DALLAS: As Southwest Airlines launches a new livery, its pilots have declared their support for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) decision to delay the application by Norwegian Air International (NAI) to begin flights from Ireland to the U.S.

Southwest new lookIn support of a permanent ban, the 7,300 members of Southwest's pilot's association (SWAPA) said the Norwegian Air subsidiary wants to operate service to America as an Irish airline "where it has no operating flights or history of operations".

Asgeir Nyseth, CEO of NAI, responded: "While we think it is unfortunate that DOT feels the need to further delay issuance of our permit, which has been pending now for over six months, Norwegian Air International stands behind its business – from its pilots and cabin crew to its affordable fare model to its desire to bring competition to the transatlantic market – and looks forward to receiving approval to operate without further delay."

The Southwest pilots and their peers at other U.S. airlines have opposed the NAI move due to what they describe as NAI's "flag of convenience" strategy to locate the airline away from Norway.

SWAPA spokesman Captain Paul Jackson commented: "We encourage Norwegian to join the marketplace under the labor laws and rules of its home country and not seek a scheme to avoid them. We strongly believe that our product and the work of our industry can stand up to any competitor if they play by the rules in place and do not seek to lower costs at any price."

In a statement NAI said the EU-US open skies agreement requires permits be issued with a "minimum procedural delay". The airline claims support from the European Commission, the Irish government and three former U.S. Secretaries of Transportation: Norman Mineta, Mary Peters and Andrew Card.

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