Cork-US flight objectors given more time

The US Department of Transportation (DoT) has granted a 10-day extension to its Cork-US flights consultation process on foot of a request from the airline’s opponents, including one of America’s largest labour unions.

Separately, the European Commission has obtained a mandate to initiate arbitration under the EU-US Open Skies agreement in a bid to resolve the impasse over the US foreign air carrier permit for Norwegian Airline’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI).

The Dublin-based airline has been waiting more than two years for a decision.

It is being opposed by a coalition of labour unions and US legacy airlines who have objected to NAI’s business model, claiming it violates Open Skies under labour practices. The airline has consistently rejected the claims.

The latest developments in the long-running saga comes just days after four US Congressmen introduced a bill in the House of Representatives in a bid to prevent the issuing of the permit.

Cork Chamber has now ramped up its lobbying efforts in a bid to secure the historic transatlantic service from Cork Airport.

It has begun urging its members to make submissions to the DoT stressing the importance and benefits of the proposed service on both sides of the Atlantic.

NAI announced plans last September to launch a Cork-to-Boston service this year and a Cork-to-New York service next year.

The Boston service’s May launch was postponed because of the licensing delays.

The breakthrough came in mid April when the DoT announced tentative approval for NAI’s licence, triggering a consultation process which was due to close on May 6, with answers to the submissions on May 13.

However, the Transportation Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, the largest federation of unions in the US, joined with the European Cockpit Association, the Air Line Pilots Association, the International Association of Machinists, the Association of Flight Attendants, and the Transportation Workers Union, to seek a 10-day extension of time to file objections.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association filed a similar request.

All parties said the extension is needed so they can submit “as consolidated a response” to the DoT’s tentative licence approval plan as possible. The unions have also cited the “novelty and complexity of the issues” in this case.

NAI objected to the request for an extension and said it is the consumer who will ultimately lose out.

However, the DoT said an extension of time was “reasonable” and in the interest of ensuring procedural due process.

It has now confirmed that it will take submissions until May 16, and will address them by May 23.

Meanwhile, Aviation Daily reported over the weekend that the European Commission’s transport directorate is now ready to trigger arbitration in a bid to resolve the long-running licensing issue.

“We are prepared to take the necessary steps to resolve the NAI issue. But we are confident that things will go as planned and look forward to the DOT granting the final approval,” a source told Aviation Daily.

If used, it would be the first time the dispute-settlement procedure has been used since Open Skies was signed in 2007.


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