A European pilots’ association has vowed to challenge US plans to allow an Irish airline operate the first transatlantic flights from Cork Airport.
The European Cockpit Association (ECA), the representative body for more than 38,000 pilots in 37 EU states, criticised the decision to tentatively approve Norwegian Air’s Irish subsidiary, Norwegian Air International (NAI), to operate between Ireland and the US, and warned that the approval of this ‘flag of convenience’ model could erode labour standards and trigger a race to the bottom.
It follows the US Department of Transportation’s (DoT) announcement last Friday that it intends to award a foreign air carrier permit to NAI, which plans to launch a Cork-Boston service this year, and a Cork to New York service next year.
Howver, the ECA said the DoT, together with the European Commission, have opened the door and “de facto” laid out the welcome mat for flags of convenience in aviation.
ECA president Dirk Polloczek said: “This decision is an own goal. The US DoT and the European Commission have chosen to undermine their own airline industries and destroy decent jobs and the social rights of their own citizens.”
However, Norwegian said the permit decision has been widely welcomed by airports, tourism and passenger groups, senior politicians and industry bodies on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Unfortunately, some unions are continuing to do everything they can to block the competition, preventing passengers access to affordable airfares, and blocking the creation of new jobs and significant benefits to Ireland,” a spokesman said.
He said opponents are repeating misleading allegations which have been dismissed, and pointed out that NAI is a recognised EU airline, with a Dublin headquarters, more than 35 aircraft registered in Ireland and a series of new routes from Ireland planned.
“It is also a clear fact that Norwegian always follows labour laws in all the markets we operate, offering competitive wages and conditions,” he said. “NAI does not have a single Asian-based crew member or pilot, and Norwegian has continuously stated and committed in writing to the US DoT that only US and EU-based crew will be used on NAI transatlantic services.”
The airline hopes to begin the Boston route this year.
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