Labour unions fire back at Norwegian

Washington DC
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Three labour organisations have fired back at Norwegian's new EU subsidiary, in an ongoing war of words between the airline and mostly US-based parties as the carrier seeks to gain approval to fly to the USA.

The Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO; the Air Line Pilots Association and the European Cockpit Association filed the joint reply with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in response to Norwegian Air International (NAI)'s reply to the DOT earlier this month. NAI, the new Irish subsidiary of Norwegian which plans to take over the carrier's long-haul flying, had filed a DOT application in December 2013 to operate flights to the USA.

The application attracted responses from four US mainline carriers, trade association Airlines for America, ALPA and TTD, AFL-CIO, urging the DOT to deny NAI's application. The US parties said the application contravenes a section of the US-EU air transport agreement. NAI then filed a reply, disputing these accusations.

In the latest filing, the three labour organisations say NAI's response does not deny any of the assertions in the earlier filings. The airline's arguments are based on a "fundamental misunderstanding" of rules that govern approval of flight authorities under the US-EU air transport agreement, say the parties.

As in the earlier filings, they allege that NAI was planned to be based in Ireland to avoid being governed by stricter labour laws in Norway. "NAI has contested none of these showings," say the three organisations.

They also argue that granting a permit to NAI will be inconsistent with public interest, saying that the air transport agreement does not provide an "unconditional right" for an airline to have its application approved. "Rather... what the ATA [air transport agreement] provides is an opportunity for an airline (a status that NAI has not yet achieved) to receive appropriate authority and permissions if it meets certain requirements," they add.