Low-cost carrier Norwegian has confirmed the creation of a UK subsidiary, paving the way for potential new routes to Asia, South America and South Africa.

The carrier was today granted a UK operating licence, opening up bilateral traffic rights to a series of new long-haul destinations.

Norwegian plans to begin operating under the new licence as ‘Norwegian UK’ in the first quarter of 2016.

Norwegian obtained the approval following a detailed application process with the Civil Aviation Authority.

The UK arm will be based at Gatwick where the airline already has ten aircraft and more than 400 crew and pilots.

Norwegian’s new routes and UK expansion plans are expected to help create several hundred jobs in the coming years, along with many more in the wider travel and tourism industry.

The airline has grown to become the third-largest airline at Gatwick and also operates from Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.

Norwegian has flown 3.9 million UK passengers to 34 destinations, including the only direct budget flights to the US, over the past 12 months.

The carrier plans further expansion on the back of plans to more than quadruple its long-haul fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

Norwegian chief executive, Bjorn Kjos, said: “The British market continues to play a major role in Norwegian’s growth.

“Securing a UK operating licence is great news and an important step to get a stronger foothold in the UK as we plan for further expansion, new routes and new jobs.”

Norwegian UK managing director, Asgeir Nyseth, added: “With nearly 4 million passengers in the UK over the last 12 months, passengers are voting with their feet for the quality, affordable travel we offer.

“We are changing the face of low-cost travel by offering free on-board Wi-Fi, state-of-the-art new aircraft and the UK’s only direct low-cost flights to America.

“With the door now unlocked for new routes and further growth, we look forward to offering UK passengers a range of exciting new destinations in the future.”