Cork Airport rejects claims Norwegian Air deal could hurt workers

US congressman says permit for Boston flight could lead to erosion of working conditions

Management at Cork Airport have rejected claims by a US congressman that the granting of a foreign carrier permit to Norwegian Air International to fly from Cork to Boston would result in the erosion of pay and conditions of those working in the aviation industry on transatlantic routes.

Cork Airport Managing Director Niall McCarthy said the claims coming from some quarters in the US about Norwegian Air International using crews on cheap Asian contracts on the proposed Cork-Boston service were without foundation.

"Norwegian Air International operates in a way that would be familiar to people like Ryanair operate in Europe and Ryanair has revolutionised air travel in Europe and essentially it has made low-cost efficient travel available to people throughout Europe and changed the market in Europe.

“And if a low-cost carrier enters the market on the Atlantic corridor, the same efficiencies will apply – cheaper fares will apply and the existing operators and trade unions don’t want to see that happen – it’s all about protectionism and is anti-consumer,” Mr McCarthy told Cork’s 96FM.


Mr McCarthy was speaking after it emerged that US congressman Peter DeFazio had written to EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc to express concerns about the EU decision to seek arbitration over the delay by the US Department of Transportation to grant the airline a foreign carrier permit.

Mr DeFazio, who represents Oregon, said that the airline was planning to use Ireland as "a flag of convenience" to circumvent US aviation laws and "firmly plant the weed of this unsustainable business model in the fertile soil of our international aviation system".

Mr DeFazio expressed concern that Norwegian Air International would use crews hired on contracts based in Asian countries to operate the new Cork-Boston service resulting in an erosion of the pay and conditions enjoyed by crew governed by US and EU labour laws.

‘Unfounded allegations’

The airline has rejected these "unfounded allegations" and reiterated that crew operating on the proposed Cork-Boston service would have contracts governed by where they are based – either in the US or in the European Union.

“It is a clear fact that Norwegian always follows labour laws in all the markets we operate and we have continuously publicly stated [and committed in writing to the US authorities] that US and EU-based crew will be used on NAI transatlantic routes,” said the company.

“The US Department of Transportation have already stated that Norwegian Air International appears to meet the DOT’s normal standards for award of a permit and that there appears to be no legal basis to deny NAI’s application.”

Three former US secretaries of transportation have urged approval of Norwegian Air International's application which has also received widespread support from the EU, the Irish Government, airports and major airlines, as well as huge public support.

“Norwegian Air International is an approved and fully operational EU carrier that meets all requirements under the EU-US Open Skies Agreement. We are confident the department of transportation will approve Norwegian Air International’s application and we hope they will do so shortly.”

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times