The Irish Government must maintain diplomatic pressure to ensure the US department of transportation grants a full permit for a transatlantic service from Cork as trade unions in the aviation sector are likely to lobby hard against any such move, a Cork councillor has said.
Fianna Fáil Cllr Tom O'Driscoll said the decision by the US department to issue what is known as a Show Cause Order to Norwegian Air International to operate a Cork -Boston flight was a positive development towards starting the service, but much work remains to be done.
An aviation enthusiast and a keen observer of trends within the airline business, Cllr O’Driscoll said that he fully expected both trade unions and rival airlines to make a strong push during a three week submission period to try and persuade the department not to issue a full permit.
“Hopefully the Cork-Boston service will take off but I think people are getting a small bit carried away by what happened last week - the issuing of the Show Cause Order is very good news but it’s certainly not a formality because I expect there will be a lot of lobbying going on,” he said.
“The department of transportation have asked interested parties to make submissions on their finding and I would imagine various people who want to stop this will go all out and make one last effort to block it - it’s a good result so far but people should not be getting euphoric about it - yet.”
Cllr O'Driscoll said the issue for airlines and trade unions representing those working in the aviation industry was not whether there is a Cork-Boston service but rather whether Norwegians Air International's plans or such a service will lead to low cost flights on transatlantic routes.
"This isn't about Cork-Boston. What the unions and the airlines - and it's not just American airlines - are really afraid of is that if this type of low cost operation works on the Atlantic as Ryanair did with flights within Europe, then it becomes a game changer for the industry," he said.
"The low cost revolution has never come onto the Atlantic routes but it will happen if Norwegian gets the go-ahead for this service where they will undercut airlines like Aer Lingus and United and Delta and that's why I think there will be one last effort by the pilots to block it.
"Taoiseach Enda Kenny raised it with president Obama when he visited the White House last month and some good work has been done but nobody should be complacent and think the battle is over - there's one more hurdle to be cleared and people need to continue to lobby to get it over the line."
Cllr O'Driscoll's concerns appear well founded, with the European Cockpit Association last week arguing the US department of transportation's tentative approval for Norwegian Air International Cork-Boston flight opens the door and lays out the welcome mat for "Flags of Convenience" in aviation.
Dirk Polloczek, president of the ECA which represents over 38,000 pilots working for 37 European member associations, described the move as "an own goal" which ignores a key provision in the EU-US Open Skies agreement.
“In opening the door to this flag of convenience scheme, the US department of transportation and the EC have chosen to undermine their own airline industries and destroy decent jobs and the social rights of their own citizens,” said Mr Polloczek.
“They appear instead to have looked out for the interests of a few CEOs that want to deny workers their rights and make a ‘quick buck’ at the expense of the rest of the responsible industry and society.”
Jon Horne, Vice-President of ECA said that if the department and its European Union counterparts grant Norwegian Air International a permanent permit, it will pave the way for "a race to the bottom" where the aviation sector will become like today's maritime industry.
“And that is a world where operators choose to be regulated by countries with the weakest or even non-existent rules, where the standards developed over decades are sold out and where companies feel free to place themselves beyond the taxes and obligations of the markets they benefit from,” he said.