An Irish MEP has hit out at a US congressman for weighing into a protracted row around proposed transatlantic flights from Cork and Shannon airports.
Democrat Peter DeFazio has become embroiled in the dispute after he wrote to the European transport commissioner voicing concerns about Irish-registered Norwegian Air, which he accused of using Ireland as a “flag of convenience”.
Last September, Norwegian Air announced it would be launching transatlantic flights from Ireland to Boston. Since then, the US has refused to grant permission to the proposed routes, with many politicians, including former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, objecting to the plans.
Mr DeFazio wrote to the EU raising issues with the airline, claiming it hires crew on contracts governed by Singapore law. “If Norwegian were a US carrier, their practices would not be acceptable under US airline labour laws, and I am confident they are not acceptable under the laws of Norway. They certainly are not consistent with the fair labour principles of the European Union,” he wrote.
“As European legacy carriers face increasingly challenging market conditions, what will be the next Norwegian, and what flag of convenience will appear on the sides of its aircraft? I do not believe that anyone, on either side of the Atlantic, can assure the flying public with confidence that this race to the bottom will end well.”
The EU announced last week that it would be moving the issue forward for arbitration in a bid to resolve the trade issues between the EU and the US. It is understood that this prompted the congressman to contact the transport commissioner.
Yesterday, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune rejected the claims Mr DeFazio made in his letter.
She compared opposition to Norwegian Air flying from Cork and Shannon airports to the US as the same kind of negativity and opposition that faced Ryanair when it sought a licence to fly to the UK in 1986. Now, she said, Ryanair employs around 10,000 people and has opened up air travel to millions of Europeans.
“I utterly refute the allegations that Norwegian Airlines is using Ireland as a flag of convenience to employ low-paid crew and to undermine working conditions for cabin crew working for other transatlantic airlines,” said Ms Clune.
“Some US politicians, certain unions, and a number of legacy airlines carriers are attempting to block new competition on the transatlantic routes.”
Ms Clune said the routes will increase tourism, open up more investment, and create a direct link between Ireland South and the US.
She pointed out that Norwegian Air Ireland, headquartered in Dublin, is a recognised EU airline and has more than 35 aircraft registered in Ireland. “I am calling on Irish politicians to get behind the new route and put as much pressure on the US authorities as possible to resist the efforts of some in the US who are opposed to competition, progress, and efficiency,” said Ms Clune.
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