American Pilots Cry Foul, Appeal To Trump As Norwegian Air Expands U.S. Market Foot Print

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Ted Goodman Contributor
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American commercial airline pilots are asking President Donald Trump to reverse an eleventh-hour decision by former President Barack Obama to grant Norwegian Air International a license to operate trans-Atlantic flights between Europe and the East Coast of the United States.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 55,000 pilots in the United States and Canada contends that Norwegian Air is violating a clause in the international Open Skies agreement that states, “Opportunities created by the agreement are not intended to undermine labor standards or the labor-related rights.”

Norwegian Air has already announced ten new flights between the United States and Europe following the controversial ruling, which officials with the Departments of Transportation and Justice called one of the most complex cases they ever came across.

International aviation regulations have traditionally required aircraft to be registered (“flagged”) in the home country of its owners and regulators. Several new airlines are currently attempting to discard the national flag-based system in favor of a “flag of convenience”-based model.

The flag-of-convenience model allows airlines to set up subsidiaries outside of their home countries in an attempt to increase profit, a practice Norwegian Air uses. Norwegian Air’s desire to operate in the United States faces opposition from airline carriers and unions, who asserted that it undercuts labor costs, safety regulations and domestic-airline ticket prices by operating in Ireland instead of its home country of Norway.

Norwegian Air responded to the flag-of-convenience accusations by asserting that they set up shop in Ireland for “access to future traffic routes.” The budget carrier is introducing $65 one-way flights across the Atlantic, a deal that aviation industry analysts say is unsustainable.

“That’s a blatant lie,” Chip Hancock, chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee for the Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association (SWAPA), told The Daily Caller News Foundation Monday. “Norway was given full rights and privileges of the US-EU Open Skies agreement when the agreement was modified in June 2011,” Hancock asserted, pushing back against Norwegian Air’s argument.

Hancock, and pilots union representatives of the private jet company, Net Jet, met with the White House Feb. 14 to discuss the “Open Skies” treaty and Norwegian Air’s license specifically. Airline representatives left the White House “encouraged by their initial meeting,” according to Hancock.

“We look forward to continuing to make the case to the administration that this permit is detrimental for American pilots and the flying public,” Hancock said after the Feb 14 meeting.

Flight attendants and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which counts ALPA as one of its member unions, sued the White House in early January, asking a court to rescind the Norwegian air permit.

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