NORWEGIAN Air has dismissed as more ‘false allegations’ statements made by a former US Deputy Transport Secretary in a submission by US unions to the American Dept of Transport.
The submission was made as a ‘late application’ to the documents filed recently by interested parties as the US government debates whether the airline should be allowed to fly from Cork to the US.
The flights, announced last year, would be the first scheduled transatlantic flights from Cork to the US, and it was originally hoped they would be in the air by last May.
However, plans for a permit have been challenged by US transport unions who claim it will dilute existing labour laws in the aviation industry, if Norwegian use cheaper, or non-EU crew, on the routes.
Norwegian is planning to fly from Cork to Boston and New York and claims the EU’s Open Skies Agreement allows for such flights.
It is believed the US Dept of Transport will make a final decision on the permits next week but Norwegian has once again defended its stance on the crew issue, in a statement, exclusive to The Southern Star.
‘Essentially these are the same false allegations that have been dismissed many times before, so there’s nothing new here,’ said a spokesman.
He was responding to the comments from US unions which quoted former US Transport Deputy Secretary John Porcari.
It said former Deputy Secretary Porcari was the senior official who participated in the US/EU Open Skies negotiations and ‘played a central role in the US Government’s efforts to consider and address the concerns the US labour groups had with the various proposals presented in the negotiations’.
In a blog published by the Huffington Post website this week, Mr Porcari says: ‘Norwegian Air’s plan is to have their Irish subsidiary hire crews under Singaporean or Thai law that allows them to fly without having to comply with the employment and tax laws of its Norwegian home country. If approved, this highly unusual application guts the core of the ATA’s labor provision, which is the logical forum for such disputes.’
However, a Norwegian spokesperson said this week: ‘These are simply the same unfounded allegations that have been dismissed many times in the past. It is a clear fact that Norwegian always follows labour laws in all the markets we operate, offering competitive wages and conditions. NAI does not have a single Asian-based crew member or pilot. NAI’s plans for new transatlantic routes would bring significant benefits to Ireland and along with widespread support from the EU, the Irish Government, airports and major airlines, three former US Secretaries of Transportation (Andrew H Card, Jr, Norman Y Mineta, and Mary E Peters) have already voiced their support for NAI applications. We are confident the Department of Transportation will approve Norwegian Air International’s application and we hope they will do so shortly.’
Meanwhile, Cork Airport have issued this statement today: 'Cork Airport will continue to work with Norwegian and with the support of the Irish Government and the EU Authorities to get the US Licence for Norwegian Air International Limited. This will finally allow the commencement of the long overdue Cork to Boston route and in due course, Cork to New York. The continuing delay in the US is simply unacceptable and contrary to the internationally binding Open Skies Treaty which governs these matters. We call on the US Authorities to finally grant this licence without further delay.'
The news comes as Norwegian Air UK was blocked in its bid to launch flights from the UK to the US this week. The US Department of Transport said it would not grant a licence for the airline to fly from London because of 'novel and complex issues'.
Observers have said this decision is ominous and does not bode well for the airline's sister company to get its Cork to the US flights over the line.
The Southern Star believes a decision on the permit will be made within the next week.