POWERFUL transport unions in the US have launched a campaign to get president-elect Donald Trump to overturn the approval for Norwegian to fly from Cork to the US.
The long-awaited flights were finally granted a permit last Friday, when Taoiseach Enda Kenny made the announcement on his US trip.
Norwegian said this week that it planned to start the routes next summer, with prices as low as €65 one way, and €280-€325 return.
The news received a widespread welcome over the weekend, with local interest groups describing it as a ‘game changer’ for Cork Airport and West Cork’s tourism industry.
However, within hours of the decision it emerged that incoming presdient Trump would have the power to overturn it. The permit comes with a 60-day ‘cooling off’ period in which the US administration can exercise a ‘change of heart’ option.
Describing it as ‘Trump’s first big test on aviation policy’ opponents of the plan in the US pointed out that the permit will not become final until the 61st day after it was granted.
That means that Trump will be the US president before the deadline.
This week several unions resurrected the #denyNAI (Norwegian Air International) hashtag, with over 600 messages of opposition to the plan being posted on Twitter in just a few days.
And the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) which represents 32 member unions, said the permit was a ‘betrayal’ of US aviation workers.
Appealing to Trump’s policy of protecting US jobs, they stated: ‘Unless reversed, this decision threatens a generation of US airline jobs and tells foreign airlines that scour the globe for cheap labor and lax employment laws, that America is open for business.’
They also claimed the permit contravenes the US-EU Open Skies Agreement, because decisions taken under the deal should not ‘undermine labor standards’ or rights.
This week Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune confirmed that the EC won’t withdraw its planned arbitration process ‘until we have a signed and irreversible deal on the table regarding the Norwegian licence’.
She told The Southern Star: ‘In the unlikely event that the Trump administration attempts to overturn the decision, arbitration will still be open to us as an option under the Open Skies agreement.’
A Norwegian spokesman told The Southern Star that the US government clearly believed the permit was following the intention of the Open Skies agreement.
Referring to the ‘cooling off’ period, Cork Airport managing director Niall McCarthy told The Southern Star: ‘All of the advice we have received tells us the chances of it failing now or being reversed are very small indeed. Cork Airport is proceeding full forward on the basis that we will have two transatlantic operators next year. Wow Air via Reykjavik … and Norwegian Air servicing the Boston and New York areas from summer 2017, with tickets on sale early 2017.’
Meanwhile, referring to the suggestion that Norwegian will not be flying directly to Boston’s Logan Airport, a spokesperson for the airline said: ‘A number of airports are being looked at while we finalise our plans, but secondary airports in the US present us with an opportunity to offer some truly ground-breaking fares to passengers in Ireland and the US.’