LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — An international airline now flying in and out of LAX is offering some of the lowest fares in the world.
And while passengers love it, major U.S. airlines and their unions say Norwegian Air is breaking the law and should be banned from the U.S.
KCAL9’s Stacey Butler reports the airline just started running international flights from LAX this month, with passengers offered 133 cities to choose from once they get to Europe.
Daniel Fahrenkrog was leaving from LAX Wednesday night on his way to Copenhagen, then Paris, then Spain.
“I think it’s like $900 something,” he said of the total cost of his tickets.
“You can’t pass it up… It’s comfortable and it’s less money. Why shouldn’t we take advantage of it?” he asked.
Norwegian, which is now being called the “Walmart of the skies,” is boasting discounts averaging 40 percent.
The lowest fare KCAL9 found for the end of March was LAX to Copenhagen for $539 round-trip. The closest fare on another airline for the same dates was $924 on Scandanavian Airlines. Norwegian was 42 percent less.
“We bought the Norwegian flight because it was only $465 to fly non-stop to Copenhagen,” Culver City resident Jessica Rankin said.
But passengers could see that change if critics are successful in banning the airline from flying to the U.S.
A spokesperson for the pilots union says Norwegian’s prices are so low because executives are violating the Open Skies treaty, signed by over 100 countries. It allows foreign airlines to enter each other’s countries – if they honor each other’s labor, tax and air safety laws.
“This is an airline that has concocted a scheme to get around labor, tax and regulatory laws. We don’t believe that this is legal and was not the intent of the treaty,” Airline Pilot’s Association President Capt. Lee Moak said.
Norwegian International’s headquarters are in Ireland – not Norway – but it doesn’t fly there. And it has no Norwegian crews.
Norwegian Longhaul CEO Asgeir Nyseth defended the company’s practices to the Wall Street Journal.
“It just seems to me that they’re afraid of the competition,” Nyseth said.
Still, the union says the prices give Norwegian Air an unfair advantage and threaten established airlines and their employees.
There was no word at press time on if the union would be able to halt the flights.