(Corrects 3rd paragraph to say SAS also flies to Asia from
Sweden; in 2nd para inserts missing word "airspace", corrects in
final para to say order was placed in 2015 not "last October")
By Joachim Dagenborg
OSLO Feb 9 Norwegian Air is lobbying
its government to scrap a deal which prevents it from flying the
"Siberian Corridor" over Russia, the shortest route between
Scandinavia and Asia.
Russia only allows one airline per country to use its
airspace and under the terms of a 1956 Soviet-era deal with
Denmark, Norway and Sweden only Scandinavian Airlines
and Aeroflot can fly the route.
Since Scandinavia is three countries and SAS, which is
partly owned by all three, only flies direct to Asia from
Denmark and Sweden, Norway should rework the deal, Norwegian Air
Europe's third-largest budget airline by passenger numbers
after Ryanair and EasyJet has to take a longer,
more expensive route for its flights to Thailand.
Now Norwegian Air wants to fly elsewhere in Asia and its
executives met Norway's foreign minister Boerge Brende on
Tuesday to see if the deal could be replaced.
"We have our planes ready to go and we want to start flying
these direct routes to Asia as soon as possible, but we can't
because of this incredibly outdated deal," its spokeswoman said.
"Most of these Asian routes will never happen if we are not
allowed to fly over Siberia. It would be so much more expensive
that we haven't even bothered to do the maths."
Scandinavian Airlines said it would not stand in the way of
a new deal, while Russia's flights authority and Norway's
transport ministry did not immediately comment.
"We would very much like to see free competition over
Siberia, and have lobbied for this on several occasions", an SAS
Norwegian Air, which has previously said it would be
interested in flying direct to China, Japan, Hong Kong, India
and Pakistan, hopes a new deal will open up the route to other
airlines and aims to take a larger share of the Asia-to-Europe
market, helped by its ability to offer cheaper airfares.
And with an increasing number of flights between the U.S and
Europe, Norwegian Air believes it can create a new "highway"
from the U.S. to Asia via Norway's capital.
"Right now we are stopped by this outdated deal, but we hope
that will change," the spokeswoman said, adding it would also
consider direct routes to several Russian cities.
Norwegian Air has ordered $18.5 billion worth of planes from
Boeing so far, including a deal for up to 29 Dreamliners
in October 2015, and after its Irish subsidiary was granted
approval for trans-Atlantic routes to the U.S in December, it
said it would consider buying even more planes.
(Additional reporting by Gleb Stolyarov in Moscow; Editing by
Alexander Smith and David Evans)