Unions consider options over US permit for Norwegian Air

US and European unions opposed to move allow flights from Cork and shannon to US

Unions opposed to the US decision to grant Irish-based Norwegian Air International permission to fly from Cork and Shannon to Boston are considering their options, according to the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA).

Washington’s department of transportation granted Norwegian a foreign carrier’s permit last week, paving the way for it to launch low-cost flights between Europe and the US that will include services between Cork and Shannon to Boston and possibly New York.

US and European aviation unions, including IALPA, are opposed to the move as they say that the Scandinavian group intends using its Irish subsidiary as a flag of convenience to skirt labour laws and hire crew on contracts issued by an Asian company which provide less protection to employees.

Considering options

IALPA president Evan Cullen said on Tuesday that the unions are considering their options, but added that he was not in a position to give further details on what action they may take at this point.


Norwegian has consistently denied claims that it intends using the Irish-registered subsidiary as a flag of convenience. It has pledged to hire only US and European citizens to crew its transatlantic services.

However, the unions have said that the issue is not the crews' citizenship, but the contracts on which they will be employed. Norwegian Air International's chief executive, Bjorn Kjos, has said that they will be employed under Irish law.


It has also emerged that the US president has 60 days to veto the order issued by the department of transportation, leaving it open to president Barack Obama or president-elect Donald Trump’s incoming administration to block Norwegian’s permit.

Norwegian Air International is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle. As an Irish-registered airline, it should benefit from a US-EU treaty allowing carriers from both jurisdictions to fly freely between the two.

The Irish Aviation Authority licensed Norwegian in early 2014 and the airline applied for its US permit shortly afterwards.

The US authorities’ delay in issuing the permit prompted the EU to put the issue to arbitration. Brussels claimed that the US was in breach of its obligations under the treaty by not granting Norwegian permission to fly there.

The department of transportation’s order granting the permit states that once an airline is owned by the citizens of any EU state, it is entitled to benefit from the treaty.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

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