Regulator counters pilot union claims over Norwegian airline

IAA’s safety oversight has been ranked among best in the world

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has countered efforts by US and European pilots' unions to question its ability to regulate a Norwegian-owned budget airline recently established in the Republic.

The Airline Pilots' Association, a US union, and the European Cockpit Association have both questioned the regulator's ability to police Dublin-based Norwegian Air International (NAI), which is launching a low-cost transatlantic service using an Air Operator's Certificate issued by the IAA. The unions' claims are part of a campaign, supported by established transatlantic players, aimed at preventing the airline from getting a US permit that would allow it fly from Europe to destinations such as New York and Florida for as little as $150 one way.

In a letter yesterday, the IAA's head of corporate affairs, Donal Handley said it robustly rejects claims made by both pilots' groups and other organisations, and added that both the Government and European Commission share its position.

He points out that in July last year, the Eurocontrol Performance Review Body ranked the Republic first for effectiveness of safety management, a key measure of the quality of safety regulatory oversight.


Safety regulation

Mr Handley also states that in 2011 the

International Civil Aviation Organisation

(ICAO) ranked the State fourth in the world and third in Europe for the quality of its safety regulation, ahead of the US and major EU countries such as Holland and


. The Republic is expected to achieve a similar result in a ICAO survey completed recently.

The unions' claims are partly based on the fact that most NAI flights will not be operated from the Republic. However, the IAA points out that it regulates Ryanair,which has 67 bases across 27 countries in Europe and North Africa, and its system has proven "highly effective" over a period of decades.

The US Department of Transportation this week refused a short-term permit to NAI but is still considering a long-term application.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas