ORLANDO, FL. — Greater connections between Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Europe are anticipated following the U.S. Department of Transportation’s approval of a foreign air carrier permit for Norwegian Air Shuttle’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI). After a nearly three year review process, USDOT awarded the permit to NAI under the Open Skies agreement between the United States and European Union. The approval allows Norwegian Air to continue its weekly service from MCO to Norway and the U.K. with connecting points beyond.
“Our focus is expanding competitive choice for our customers and ensuring visitors have the most efficient air service routings possible to enjoy the exceptional vacation experience Orlando offers,” says Frank Kruppenbacher, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Chairman. “That is why the Aviation Authority has been a vocal and steadfast supporter of the successful Open Skies policy.”
Norwegian Air’s inaugural flight from Oslo arrived at Orlando International in May of 2014. The airline has since added scheduled service to London Gatwick, seasonal service to Copenhagen, Denmark and upcoming service to Paris this summer.
Calling the NAI case among the most novel and complex it had ever undertaken, the USDOT had to consider opposition and support from a wide range of stakeholders. However, despite arguments from U.S. domestic air carriers, the law and bilateral obligations of Open Skies left USDOT no avenue to reject NAI’s permit.
For 25 years, the air service trade policy of Open Skies has benefited the local economy by supporting jobs and providing the opportunity to welcome new international air service from around the world. For Orlando International Airport and the region, Open Skies has become an indispensable element of the success of Central Florida’s tourism-driven economy. International traffic currently accounts for more than 13 percent of MCO’s record 41.5 million annual passengers.
“Orlando has traditionally benefited from Open Skies agreements as it is not a hub location for any domestic airline,” says Phil Brown, Greater Orlando Aviation Authority Executive Director. “We are committed to promote access and bring connections both domestic and international to our region, this decision is welcomed to stimulate our already record breaking international activity.”
Orlando International Airport serves as the premier global gateway to the number one family tourism destination in the world. In 2015, Central Florida welcomed 66 million visitors. Tourism’s annual economic impact is over $61 billion to Central Florida and represents over 20 percent of the jobs.