Monday 22 January 2018

Aviation Authority blasts pilot union for Norwegian comments

Irish Airline Pilots Association president Evan Cullen.
Irish Airline Pilots Association president Evan Cullen.
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has blasted comments being disseminated by the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA) regarding the Ireland-based subsidiary of Scandinavian airline Norwegian, describing the remarks as "significant false inaccuracies".

The remarks were contained in a letter sent by IALPA union president Evan Cullen to west Cork Fine Gael TD Jim Daly, as Norwegian Air International (NAI) tries to secure US department of transport approval for its planned service from Cork to Boston.

Regulatory delays in the United States prompted by pressure from airline unions there, have forced Norwegian Air International, which is registered in Ireland, to defer the planned launch of the Cork service. NAI requires a foreign carrier permit from US authorities, which have so far not issued one.

The route would be the first ever transatlantic service from Cork, and Norwegian had hoped to have it up and running by May. A second service, between Cork and New York, is planned by Norwegian to launch next year.

US airline and pilot unions have spent the past two years trying to prevent the Ireland-based Norwegian subsidiary, which now has 33 aircraft registered here, from being granted clearance by US authorities from flying to America from Ireland.

However, increasing pressure is being put on the US, by both Irish politicians and EU officials, to allow NAI to commence services.

It's expected that the matter will be raised by Irish politicians in the United States next week during St Patrick's Day meetings.

Mr Cullen wrote to Mr Daly 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.

"Norwegian seeks a separate US permit for its NAI subsidiary, a company that continues to employ flight crews under individual Asian contracts," claimed Mr Cullen.

"Those who seek to advance aviation in Ireland and the standards attached to it should not condone nor be drawn into Norwegian's gamesmanship in using Cork as a pawn in a transatlantic legal battle with the US Department of Transport over Asian-contract flight crew," he alleged in the letter.

But the Irish Aviation Authority then wrote to Mr Daly, denouncing Mr Cullen's comments.

"This letter contains significant false inaccuracies regarding the status of the Irish airline," the IAA head of corporate affairs, Donal Handley, wrote.

He said that the IAA is aware that all NAI crews are contracted locally and "comply fully with the legal social requirements" of the EU states.

"NAI do not have any employees contracted under any Asian jurisdiction," he wrote.

Mr Handley added: "The correspondence you have received expresses the views of stakeholders who oppose competition on the transatlantic in order to protect the status quo.

"The Munster region has lost out for now, but we hope that this matter is resolved quickly and that the new transatlantic routes can commence between Ireland and the US for the benefit of the consumer and the wider economy."

There's some speculation that NAI could still manage to launch the Cork-Boston service by mid-summer, if US approval is received soon.

Irish Independent

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