Controversial low-fare airline Norwegian Air Shuttle on Wednesday announced it has signed agreements to lease three new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners for its long-haul operation, in an interim move to shore up its fleet while it awaits U.S. Department of Transportation approval to fly more 787s to the U.S. under an Irish license. It expects to take delivery of two of the 787-9s in 2016 and the third in 2017. A Norwegian spokesperson wouldn’t disclose the identity of the latest lessor, but said the airline would reveal more later in the week, once it signs a firm order.
Norwegian now flies five 787-8s and holds earlier firm orders for another three of the smallest Dreamliners and six 787-9s; the lease deal announced Wednesday raises to 17 the number of Dreamliners slated to enter its long-haul fleet by 2018.
The carrier recently suspended talks with Boeing to order another twenty 787-9s because of the delay in U.S. DOT approvals. It now flies to the U.S. under temporary DOT approval on a Norwegian license, but wants to take advantage of an EU-U.S. open skies agreement by flying under an air operator certificate issued by Ireland. However, it has faced political barriers erected in part by U.S. labor unions and competing airlines, which claim that the airline wants to circumvent Norwegian labor laws by using its Irish certificate while flying with Thai crew from its Oslo base. The plan, according to its U.S. opponents, amounts to a so-called flag of convenience scheme prohibited by the International Civil Aviation Organization.