MEP Clune ‘furious' over latest bid to overturn US-Cork flights

January 19th, 2017 11:50 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Norwegian Air International chief Bjorn Kjos in one of the airline's Dreamliner aircraft. A letter to US president-elect Trump from 20 Congress members has urged a u-turn on the decision to grant a licence to the airline to fly from Ireland.

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IRELAND South MEP Deirdre Clune has written a very strongly-worded letter to Transport Minister Shane Ross, in relation to the row over Norwegian Air’s plans for Cork and Shannon flights to the US.

The MEP was responding to a letter from a number of US legislators to US president-elect Donal Trump, calling on him to revoke Norwegian’s permit to operate transatlantic flights between Ireland and the US. 

‘The signatories make some very serious allegations regarding Norwegian Air and their application for a transatlantic operators’ licence,’ she says in the letter to Minister Ross.  ‘I believe the letter contains a critical inference against Ireland, citing labour laws, safety and security oversight and tax loopholes. These allegations are unfounded and potentially damaging to Ireland’s reputation.’

The MEP says she has already spoken to the Irish Aviation Authority on the matter, and adds that she knows Minister Ross has been ‘very supportive’ of the NAI application.

The letter, sent on December 20th to president-electd Trump, refers to the ‘greviously wrong decision to grant Norwegian Air International a foreign air carrier permit for US-Europe air services’.

Signed by 20 members of US Congress, it has been described by Ms Clune as ‘political interference’.

The letter goes on to say: ‘While Norwegian chose the safe harbore of a country whose labor laws permit forum-shopping for the cheapest labor, the next airline to fly under a flag of convenience may choose the safe harbor of an opportunistic country with weak safety and security regulations …’

The letter ‘strongly urges’ the incoming president to ‘correct the Department’s mistake’ and, on ‘Day One’ of his presidency,  to start the process necessary to revoke or suspend Norwegian’s permit.

This is the latest move in a series of campaigns to undermine the licence granted to Norwegian, which is seen by big US transport unions as the beginnings of a price – and therefore salaries – war in US-European flights.

Ms Clune told The Southern Star this week that the arbitration process remains open and that she remains confident that the licence will stand as granted. ‘In the unlikely event that Trump attempts to overturn the licence, the Open Skies arbitration process will kick in and proceedings to force the US Department of Transport’s hand are still a viable option,’ she said. 

A spokesperson for the MEP said she was ‘furious’ at the latest interference in the long-awaited decision to grant the licence which should see flights from Cork Airport to Boston and New York beginning later this year.

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