Cantillon: safety claims about Norwegian never flew

DeFazio says Norwegian is using Ireland as a flag of convenience to skirt labour laws

Washington’s department of transportation has stymied Norwegian’s plans by so far refusing to grant it a foreign carrier’s permit

Washington’s department of transportation has stymied Norwegian’s plans by so far refusing to grant it a foreign carrier’s permit

 

US congressman Peter DeFazio’s claims about Norwegian Air International in a letter to EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc echo most of those already aired by opponents of its plans to operate low-cost transatlantic flights.

DeFazio maintains the airline, Norwegian-owned but Irish-registered, is using the Republic as a flag of convenience to skirt labour laws in its home country and hire low-paid crew through Asian sub-contractors.

His intervention in the affair, the source of a widening rift between the EU and US, follows similar claims by the likes of Delta Airlines and the Air Line Pilots’ Association. The airline has already dismissed the claims about its labour practices, saying its staff will have the protection of Irish law.

The interesting aspect of DeFazio’s letter to Bulc is that he explicitly says safety is not an issue. This was one of the original arguments raised against Norwegian’s plan.

However, it ran out of steam pretty quickly as the Republic’s safety regulator, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), which will be responsible for Norwegian, has consistently outperformed its US equivalent in International Civil Aviation Organisation’s audits.

Irish subsidiary

Norwegian Air Shuttle wants to use its Irish subsidiary to operate a low-cost long-haul airline connecting European cities with North America and Asia. As it is registered here and has a substantial presence at its base in Dublin Airport, it should qualify under the EU-US Air Transport Agreement, which gives European airlines open access to the US.

Washington’s department of transportation has – temporarily at least – stymied its plans by so far refusing to grant it a foreign carrier’s permit, preventing it from flying to the US. The two-year-old dispute over this is heading for arbitration.

Given that the safety argument never really got off the ground, opponents, such as DeFazio are increasingly focusing on Norwegian’s labour practices. It remains to be seen just how solid this argument turns out to be.

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