Dogfight over Norwegian Air's Irish flight plan intensifies
The Irish arm of Scandinavian airline Norwegian has weighed into a bitter war of words with Irish pilots' union IALPA.
Dublin-based Norwegian Air International (NAI) has claimed Irish Airline Pilots' Association president Evan Cullen is acting as "an errand boy" for a US coalition of unions and airlines trying to prevent the Irish Norwegian unit from launching services to the US from Cork and Shannon.
And speaking in Dublin yesterday, Tony Tyler, the chief executive of the hugely influential International Air Transport Association (IATA) has insisted that governments need to apply rules and make decisions transparently.
Mr Cullen wrote to west Cork Fine Gael TD Jim Daly last week claiming that Norwegian Air Shuttle, the parent of the Irish subsidiary, could operate between Ireland and the US with its current licence if it chose to do so.
He also claimed that Norwegian was using Cork as a "pawn" in a transatlantic legal battle with the US Department of Transport over Asian flight-contract crew.
The Irish Aviation Authority wrote to Mr Daly pointing out that no staff used by Norwegian Air International, which is headquartered in Dublin, are working for the operation under any Asian contract.
NAI had intended to launch flights between Dublin and Boston in May. But the US Department of Transport has not granted a foreign carrier permit to NAI to operate in America. NAI made its application to US authorities for the permit over two years ago. US airline unions staunchly oppose NAI being allowed operate in the United States, claiming that the airline will use cut-price crew.
NAI has claimed that Mr Cullen has acted as "an errand boy for a coalition of airlines and unions that in order to further their protectionist goals, shamelessly have sought to cast doubt on Ireland's reputation and capability as an airline regulator and depict Ireland as some sort of 'flag of convenience'".
Mr Cullen told the Irish Independent that IALPA will respond fully to the IAA and NAI's correspondence within days.
Although Norwegian is not a member of IATA, Mr Tyler said the airline is entitled to a decision from the US Department of Transport, after two years of waiting.
"The important principle is that governments make the rules, and governments should apply the rules, and apply them fairly," he said.
"Justice delayed is justice denied. Regulators have a duty to apply the rules within a fair time frame. If they make a decision that says an airline isn't eligible to operate on a route for some reason, they should get on and tell them so they can make other plans."
Jim Daly told the Irish Independent that he hopes political pressure exercised by Irish and EU officials in the NAI case could result in a "reasonably imminent" breakthrough.