Ryanair backs Cork-US flights bid

Ryanair has backed a low-fares rival’s plans to launch the first transatlantic flights from Cork Airport, as opposition to the service mounts.

Europe’s largest airline said plans by Norwegian Air International (NAI), which are being vigorously opposed by US labour unions and traditional ‘legacy’ airlines, will result in increased competition and customer choice, a better service, and lower fares for American and European consumers.

The comments are made in Ryanair’s submission to the US Department of Transportation (DoT) as part of its final consultation process triggered by its tentative decision to approve NAI’s application for a foreign carrier permit to operate a Cork to Boston service this year, and a Cork-New York route next year.

Aviation sources described Ryanair’s intervention as “hugely significant”.

Ryanair’s chief legal and regulatory officer, Juliusz Komorek, said they are “alarmed” at an attempt by four US congressmen to introduce legislation to block the new service.

He described it as an “ill-advised attempt to protect the incumbent airlines on the transatlantic market at the expense of consumers.”

Ryanair is one of several heavy-hitters who have now lodged submissions in favour of the proposed route ahead of a protest by American unions at the White House on Thursday in support of a new law which could block the service.

NAI, the Dublin-based subsidiary of low-fares giant, Norwegian, has been waiting more than two years for the DoT permit.

After an exhaustive examination of its application, the DoT ruled in April that the airline meets the criteria under the EU-US Open Skies agreement to operate transatlantic flights.

US president Barack Obama has also said there is no legal impediment to the granting of the permit. But four congressmen have introduced legislation in a bid to change the law, which if successful, could block the issuing of the licence.

The European Commission said it is poised to engage in arbitration if there are any more attempts to block the issuing of the licence. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said the DoT’s decision to tentatively approve NAI’s permit is “bad news for US airline workers”.

“NAI is registered in Ireland and will employ flight crews under Singaporean or Thai employment contracts and evade the employment and tax laws of Norway where its parent company is based,” it claimed.

“This ‘race to the bottom’ business plan is a clear violation of the US-EU Open Skies Agreement, which has a specific provision that states that the ‘opportunities created by the agreement are not intended to undermine labour standards or the labour-related rights and principles contained in the parties’ respective laws’.

“NAI’s plan to scour the globe for cheap labour is a blatant violation of the labour provisions in the agreement.

“NAI’s plans have always been about gaming trade rules, gaining an unfair competitive advantage, and beating down workers’ rights, wages, and benefits.”

NAI has rejected claims it will hire foreign workers and employ them on low wages.

The DoT consultation process ends on May 16, with a final decision on the permit due soon afterwards.


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