Business, tourism and aviation bodies in Ireland have urged the Irish-American community to show support for Norwegian Air International's proposed transatlantic route between Cork and Boston amid opposition by US trade unions.
Cork Chamber of Commerce has written to the Friends of Ireland Caucus in the US, urging them to back Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit from the US department of transport, which would allow it to operate a transatlantic service.
Trade unions in the US, who are opposed to the new service because they fear it will lead to a reduction in wages and a change in work practices, received a major boost this week when US Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders backed their campaign.
Mr Sanders said Norwegian Air International (NAI)'s planned service would employ low-paid crew, a move that would "threaten the jobs of hundreds of thousands of flight attendants, mechanics, pilots and other airline workers in our country and in Europe.
“We must do everything we can to prevent a global race to the bottom in the airline industry. If this permit is approved, it would open the door to the same ‘flag of convenience’ model that decimated US shipping,” said Mr Sanders.
However, Cork Chamber of Commerce said its letter to more than 50 political representatives with close relations to the Irish community in the US was designed to counter information that is “deeply inaccurate, misleading and simply untrue.
“Opponents of NAI have repeatedly and maliciously impugned Ireland’s aviation safety oversight, regulatory structures and labour protections, and labelled Ireland as a mere ‘flag of convenience’ . . . the letter clearly corrects this misleading information.
“The opposition to the NAI permit is based on restricting consumer choice and competition and is not on the grounds of safety or labour.
“Irish safety standards are amongst the highest in the world and only EU and US crews will be employed, who will be subject to EU law.
“The Cork-Boston route was due to commence in May but had to be postponed.
The letter itself said opposition to the route was “a highly unfortunate development for our economies and a missed opportunity for US and Irish consumers to enjoy additional connectivity between our nations”.
The signatories to the letter include Eamonn Brennan, chief executive of the Irish Aviation Authority, Michael Cawley, chairman of Bord Fáilte, and Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair.
Other signatories include Kevin Toland, chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority, Niall McCarthy, managing director of Cork Airport, and Ian Talbot, chief executive of the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland.