The Washington-based Air Line Pilots Association opposes final clearance by the US authorities because it says that the airline’s Cork proposal breaks the Open Skies agreement and threatens to shred existing airline pay and conditions on both sides of the Atlantic.
Tim Canoll, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said the pilots have secured the support of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, but stressed it wants to secure agreement because the Government and the Cork region have staked so much on the route.
Its opposition “would melt away” as soon as Norwegian Air International filed an undertaking with the US Department of Transportation saying its staffing plans for the Cork route do not break existing airline pay conditions in the US and the EU, Mr Canoll said.
“In the intervening period, Norwegian has gone to lengths to say that it does not plan to weaken labour conditions and we think that is the path,” he said.
A spokesperson for Norwegian Air said yesterday it remains committed to launching services between Cork and the US.
Asked about the possibility of political interference after the US presidential election, the spokesperson said: “The US Department of Transportation has provisionally approved the application and said there are no legal grounds to deny the airline a licence.
“Norwegian have received support from major airlines and airports in the US and we continue to call on the US to grant approval for the transatlantic service.”
US airline JetBlue also wrote to the US transportation secretary in support of the Norwegian airline’s application, saying: “We consider this nearly three-year delay concerning for all carriers seeking market access and due process.
“The stated intention of the European Union to pursue formal arbitration of this dispute shines an unfavourable light on our country’s commitment to the rule of law and to Open Skies agreements — commitments JetBlue has relied heavily upon for our international growth.”
The plans of the airline to introduce flights from Cork to the US have long been delayed by strong objections in the US.
Opponents, most notably labour unions representing pilots, have cited concerns around low pay and work conditions.
The airline, an Irish-based subsidiary of Norwegian, first applied for a licence for the international routes more than two and a half years ago.
It had initially hoped to initiate Cork-Boston flights by the end of this year, and a service between Cork and New York starting in 2017.