Trump urged to block Norwegian Air’s Ireland-US flights
Over 100 US legislators call on president-elect to revoke permit when he takes office
US president-elect Donald Trump has been asked to revoke Norwegian Air International’s foreign carrier’s permit, which allows it to fly between the EU and US. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Washington’s department of transportation recently granted Irish-based Norwegian Air International a foreign carrier’s permit, allowing it to fly between the European Union and United States, and paving the way for its proposed transatlantic services from Cork and Shannon.
However, 108 congressmen and women – some with strong Irish connections – have written to Mr Trump calling on him to use the US president’s power to revoke or suspend Norwegian’s permit as soon as he takes office later this month.
The department of transportation’s order states that the president has 60 days to decide to overturn the decision to grant Norwegian Air International its foreign carrier’s permit.
Mr Trump will be inaugurated on January 20th, allowing him time to reverse the decision, which the department published on December 2nd. The letter calls on the president-elect to act on “day one” of his administration.
It demands that Mr Trump revoke or suspend the permit until “Norwegian changes its business model to a model that does not rely on a flag of convenience and threaten America’s international aviation industry”.
The lawmakers say Norwegian is “Norwegian” only in name. “Its crews work under short-term contracts, many governed under Singapore law; some crewmembers are based in Bangkok; and the company is organised and regulated in Ireland, ” the letter states. It also describes the Republic as a country whose laws permit “forum-shopping” for the cheapest labour.
The politicians’ claims echo similar protests by aviation unions on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association, and the carrier’s rivals, made to the department of transportation before it gave Norwegian permission to fly to the US.
However, both the airline and its Scandinavian parent, Norwegian Air Shuttle, have denied these claims and stated that crews on its transatlantic flight will be hired under EU or US employment law, not on the Asian contracts that opponents claimed it intended using.
EU-US air transport treaties
It has also said that it chose to base its subsidiary in the Republic to allow it to benefit from EU-US air transport treaties, and because it uses its Dublin office to acquire aircraft for its fleets.
The first signature on the letter is congressman Peter DeFazio, a ranking member of the house transportation committee who opposed Norwegian’s original permit application. Official figures show that organisations that formally stated their opposition to Norwegian donated $882,000 (€843,000) to Mr DeFazio’s campaigns over the years.
Signatories include a number of politicians with an Irish background, including former house transportation committee member, Massachusetts congressman Jim McGovern, Mike Doyle from Pennsylvania and Tim Ryan from Ohio.
Norwegian Air International originally applied for its foreign carrier’s permit almost three years ago. Washington’s delay in issuing the licence prompted the EU to have the issue put into arbitration.
Since it received the permit, Norwegian has begun talks with a number of airports in northeast US about possible links to Cork and Shannon, including Hartford, Connecticut, to which Aer Lingus already flies from Dublin.