Monday 26 September 2016

Aviation watchdog 'interfering' in airline spat - union

Published 16/03/2016 | 02:30

Evan Cullen President of the Irish Airline Pilots Association
Evan Cullen President of the Irish Airline Pilots Association

The Irish Aviation Authority is deferring to the commercial and political aims of Scandinavian airline Norwegian and interfering in issues that don't concern it, the president of the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) has claimed.

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Evan Cullen, the president of IALPA has also accused both the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), and Norwegian Air International (NAI) of personally attacking him in recent letters sent by both organisations to west Cork TD Jim Daly.

The correspondence between the parties comes as President Obama signalled yesterday in a meeting with acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he expects NAI will be in a position soon to start flying from Ireland to the United States.

NAI, a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, is based in Dublin Airport, and has an Irish air operator's certificate (AOC). However, there has been a two-year wait so far in its application for a foreign carrier permit being decided upon by US officials. It had hoped to launch a service from Cork to Boston this summer.

"In a rare departure from normal practice, each of the letters (from the IAA and NAI) advance personalised positions," Mr Cullen wrote in a letter seen by the Irish Independent which was sent to Mr Daly this week.

Mr Cullen dismissed allegations by the IAA that he and IALPA are opposed to competition on transatlantic air routes out of Ireland.

"What we oppose is unfair competition and the use of methods that hide the reality of employment practices," he said in his letter.

"In actual fact, IALPA very much supports a vibrant and competitive Irish aviation industry," he added.

Mr Cullen also told Mr Daly that it is a "concern" that the IAA, a government body charged with safety regulation has taken it on itself to enter a debate on employment matters "which have no direct bearing on safety".

"The unsolicited intervention of the IAA is akin to the Health and Safety Authority intervening in the Luas industrial dispute on drivers' pay," he wrote.

A spokesman for the IAA told the Irish Independent that its letter to Mr Daly was written to "correct the facts".

"The letter to Deputy Daly was the official IAA position in order to protect the AOC and no issue of personalised positions arises", he said. "We do not wish to engage in a public spat with IALPA and we are happy to explain any matter to them they require."

Mr Kenny confirmed he had raised the Norwegian Air International matter with President Obama in the White House yesterday during their St Patrick's Day meeting.

Mr Kenny claimed the additional air links from Ireland to the US would have "major implications for reducing fares".

Yesterday, the chief executive of the DAA, Kevin Toland, welcomed President Obama's comments regarding progress on NAI's application.

Irish Independent

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