Irish aviation, political, and business leaders have branded as “false and misleading” claims made by four US congressmen who have introduced legislation designed to block the first transatlantic flights from Cork Airport, writes Eoin English.
Mayor of Cork County John Paul O’Shea said the details in their proposed bill and their references to Irish labour laws are “inaccurate and insulting to the people of Cork and Ireland”.
“The US Department of Transportation [DoT] has already stated that there is no legal impediment to the granting of a foreign carrier permit,” Mr O’Shea said.
“There is quite simply no validity to this proposed bill and I would call on the four congressmen to withdraw this bill and support the Cork to Boston route for the many Irish, Irish-American, and American people awaiting this new direct link.”
One aviation source close to the process said: “We are outraged at this development. We believe it is anti- competitive, anti-consumer, in effective breach of the EU- US Open Skies agreement, is based on false assertions which have already been refuted, and frankly insulting to the Irish people.”
Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy said they are now urging their members to make submissions to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) supporting the granting of a licence to Norwegian Airline’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), to operate flights between Ireland and the US.
A spokesman for Norwegian also hit back and said many of their opponents are “repeating misleading allegations” that were dismissed and proven false” several times in the past two years.
The low-fares airline, based in Dublin, is planning to launch a Cork-Boston service this year, and a Cork-New York service next week, and is also eyeing expansion from Shannon.
The DoT granted tentative approval for the granting of NAI’s licence earlier this month after ruling that its application complies with the Open Skies agreement, and stating that there was no legal impediment to the granting of the permit.
It triggered a consultation process which should conclude with a final decision late next month.
However, it emerged on Thursday night that US representatives Peter DeFazio and Rick Larsen, both Democrats, and Republicans Frank LoBiondo and Lynn Westmoreland have introduced a bipartisan bill that, if made law, would prevent the DoT from permitting a foreign air carrier to operate between the EU and US unless the carrier complies with basic, fair US or EU labour standards.
They have claimed NAI model violates the Open Skies deal and would give the airline an unfair competitive advantage in the transatlantic market, and compromise the competitiveness of American air carriers.
Mr Healy pointed out that the bill is outside the DoT process, which will ultimately make a decision on the licence. “It’s raising the same issues that have been raised over the last number of months, all of which have been ruled on by the DoT in their tentative granting of a permit,” he said.
“The fact is the Open Skies agreement is designed to facilitate enhanced competition and greater choice for consumers and business.
“Granting this permit would be in line with that, and these recent developments are outside the spirit and terms of that agreement.”
This article first appeared in the Irish Examiner.