Norwegian airline rejects ‘low-cost staff’ claims for Irish subsidiary

The Norwegian airline planning to launch the first transatlantic flights from Cork has rejected claims its Irish subsidiary will hire staff on lower pay and conditions.

Low-cost European giant, Norwegian, said it set up Dublin-based Norwegian Air International (NAI) to make “best use of the existing Irish operations” and Irish-registered aircraft that are already in place.

“NAI have already committed in writing to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) to only use European and US crews on its transatlantic flights so any concerns on this issue are unfounded,” said a spokesman.

He was reacting to comments from the Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) in the wake of high-level EU-US diplomatic meetings this week over the unprecedented two-year delay by the US DoT on Norwegian’s foreign carrier permit application.

The delay is threatening the May launch of its Cork to Boston service.

NAI insists it needs the licence to avail of the Open Skies agreement and operate the Cork to Boston service.

The average time for granting these applications is 53 days. The NAI application is pending for two years.

However, IALPA said because NAI is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, it already has adequate US permits to operate between any EU city including Cork, and the US.

“There is nothing preventing NAS from operating tomorrow between Cork and the US,” said IALPA president Evan Cullen.

“Norwegian Air Shuttle currently operate from Gatwick to the US and from other EU cities on these US permits.

“I fear the real reason for using the Irish government and Cork is to establish an airline in Ireland which will employ workers on non-EU or US employment contract and standards,” said Mr Cullen.

But Norwegian’s spokesman said securing a foreign carrier permit for its Irish operation would allow it to begin operating the Cork routes and to look at further future expansion in Ireland. It is planning a Cork-New York route next year.

“The ongoing delays are not only preventing passengers from accessing new routes and low fares, it is also delaying the creation of hundreds of new jobs and significant economic benefits,” he said.

Meanwhile, the head of the Irish Aviation Authority, which played a key role in the establishment of NAI, has called on the US authorities to make a decision on the licence.

“The Americans should approve it already,” IAA chief executive, Eamon Brennan said.

“There are no safety issues with NAI, there are no production issues with NAI and Ireland has a very strong regulatory and safety structure.

“We do not operate on a no-surveillance or flag-of-convenience basis.

“The only issue with NAI is that American airlines do not want competition in the North Atlantic.”

Minister for European Affairs Dara Murphy, met the US ambassador to the EU, Anthony Gardner, in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss the delay, and said he hopes to see some progress on the US side over the coming weeks.

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