By Siobhán Cronin
AS the row over Norwegian Air’s attempt to begin transatlantic flights from Cork continues, Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has welcomed moves by the EU Commission to launch an arbitration procedure.
Mrs Clune says the failure of the US authorities to grant Norwegian Air Ireland a licence to fly between Cork and Shannon to the United States needs further investigation.
Speaking after she recently called on the Commissioner to begin arbitration, the Ireland South MEP and EU Transport Committee member said the move is unprecedented, but necessary at this stage.
‘The NAI application does comply with the EU/US Open Skies agreement. They are a European airline flying from an Irish base to the US. The fact that the US authorities have left this file sit on a desk somewhere in the US Department of Transport is not satisfactory and a clear breach of the Open Skies agreement,’ she told The Southern Star.
‘Last week, I called on the EU Commission to initiate arbitration and I am glad that they have finally taken the decision to move ahead.
‘This will put enormous pressure on US authorities to make a decision on the licence.
‘The Commission was left with no choice in the case of Norwegian. If the US had honoured the spirit of the Open Skies agreement, we would not have had to arrive at this point,’ she added.
Meanwhile, a former deputy chief of NASA has written a scathing article about Norwegian’s attempt to gain the licence.
In the influential Washington political paper, The Hill, Lori Garver claims the airline intends to use flight crews hired under a Singapore employment contract. ‘NAI still says it plans to use US and EU crews, but if that is indeed true, why bother using a Singapore employment contract?’ he writes. ‘It seems obvious: because it gives the airline a way to get around negotiated labor and compensation standards.’
These claims have been denied by Norwegian Air on several occasions.