Monday 26 September 2016

Boeing backs Norwegian's plans to use Irish base to launch services to the US

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

Flight crew with the Norwegian airline, which is aiming to fly from Cork to Boston under the EU Open Skies Agreement.
Flight crew with the Norwegian airline, which is aiming to fly from Cork to Boston under the EU Open Skies Agreement.

Aircraft giant Boeing has warned that opposition by one of its unions to Norwegian Air International using Ireland as a base to fly to the United States could jeopardise jobs at the manufacturer.

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It's the first time the aircraft maker - which counts Norwegian among its customers - has publicly expressed support for the airline.

Norwegian Air International (NAI), a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, has been waiting over two years to secure a permit from US authorities to allow it to fly from Europe to America.

It intends to begin services with a route between Cork and Boston. Under the EU-US Open Skies agreement, any EU-registered airline can operate routes from anywhere within the Union to anywhere in the US.

But intense political and union opposition in the US to NAI's plans to use Ireland as a base for expanding its services have delayed the issuing of a permit by the US Department of Transportation. However, the agency signalled in April that it intends to award the permit.

Boeing said that the leaders of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and Aerospace Workers, are opposed to NAI being granted its permit.

The aircraft maker has been at loggerheads with the union, which is trying to organise workers at Boeing's non-union 743-acre facility in South Carolina, where it undertakes final assembly and delivery of its 787 Dreamliner.

Norwegian uses 787s on its long-haul routes, and by 2020 expects to have 38 of the aircraft in its fleet. Last October, it placed a fresh order for up to 29 more of the jets. It has a total of 150 Boeing aircraft on order. Bob McSherry, vice president of government relations and global corporate citizenship for commercial airplanes at Boeing, warned that the delay in NAI securing its permit could cost the manufacturer new orders.

He said opposition to NAI could also result in undermining Boeing aerospace jobs.

"We hope they reconsider," Mr McSherry said of the union opposition to NAI. "By falling into the DC political-game trap, they are putting customers' success and jobs on the line, and all employees ought to be concerned."

He said it's "disappointing" that IAM leaders and some politicians are "hurting a key customer and undermining Boeing jobs". He added: "We already face significant competitive headwinds without this harmful effort putting even more jobs at risk."

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