February 8, 2017 / 12:15 PM / 5 months ago

Norwegian Air more optimistic about U.S. growth after White House comments

3 Min Read

* Shares up 3 pct after White House comments

* Still awaiting U.S. approval for British subsidiary

By Joachim Dagenborg and Julia Fioretti

OSLO/BRUSSELS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Norwegian Air Shuttle said it was more optimistic about its future in the U.S. after remarks from the Trump administration on Tuesday that signalled support for the budget carrier's transatlantic growth plans.

Europe's third-largest budget airline by passenger numbers after Ryanair and EasyJet, received U.S approval in December for its Irish subsidiary to fly transatlantic routes despite opposition by U.S. unions worried it could undermine wages and working standards.

Pointing to job creation and to Norwegian's use of Boeing aircraft, White House spokesman Sean Spicer on Tuesday said the U.S. has "huge economic interest" in the company's business.

The comments sent Norwegian shares up 3.1 percent when the market opened in Oslo Wednesday morning and the stock was up 3.3 percent at 1106 GMT. It was the third-strongest performer in the Oslo benchmark index.

"We are a big Boeing customer so I think we do exactly what Trump would like everybody to do," Norwegian Air CEO Bjoern Kjos told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Brussels.

"Trump wants American jobs, we provide American jobs," he said.

The airline has ordered $18.5 billion worth of planes from Boeing so far, including 29 Dreamliners last October, the largest single order ever for Boeing from a European airline.

Norwegian has also indicated that its U.S. approval would allow them to order additional planes as it expects to establish new routes to several U.S. cities.

"We see this as a very positive signal and interpret this to mean that the Trump administration has acknowledged the significant value creation Norwegian Air has contributed in the U.S. market," a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"With our growth ambitions in the U.S., we aim to create thousands of new jobs over there and it's important for us to get that message forward. This makes us more optimistic," she said.

Norwegian has also applied to U.S. authorities for its British subsidiary to offer transatlantic flights. This application is still with the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The spokeswoman said there has been no change in status for that application and the company awaits a decision. (Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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