U.S., EU Officials Meet On Norwegian Air Controversy
As published by Tom Curry in Roll Call
Transportation Department and State Department officials met Tuesday with representatives of the European Union to discuss why the Transportation Department hasn’t yet decided on an application for a foreign air carrier permit from Norwegian Air International (NAI), the Ireland-based affiliate of the budget airline Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Norwegian Air Shuttle CEO Bjorn Kjos said in a speech in Washington last week that granting the permit was “long overdue.” His company says that by not granting the permit the United States is not honoring its obligations under a EU-U.S Open Skies Agreement.
But on Monday 188 House members, including 56 Republicans, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx urging him to deny the application and arguing that allowing NAI’s transatlantic service “would unfairly put domestic airlines at a disadvantage.”
U.S. and European unions contend that NAI violates a section of the Open Skies accord which deals with labor rights. The unions say that NAI’s air crews “are employed on individual employment contracts with a Singaporean hiring agency and based in Thailand.”
Kjos said last week his airline offers competitive wages and benefits. He added that he did not care if NAI’s pilots joined the Air Line Pilots Association and that he bargained with pilots’ unions in Europe.
Kjos also argued last week that U.S. carriers are afraid of the competition that his low-fare airline will bring.
And he said with a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, his airline can profitably connect a range of cities that “were never imaginable a few years ago.” He said NAI was considering the first no-stop service between Europe and Hawaii.
Approval of the NAI application, Kjos said, “would create thousands and thousands of jobs for Boeing.”