Norwegian fights back against US pilot claims it 'violated treaty rules'
The US Department of Transportation "systematically violated virtually every basic rule of treaty interpretation" in making its decision to grant Ireland-based Norwegian Air International a permit to operate flights between Europe and the United States, US aviation unions have claimed.
Norwegian Air International (NAI), a subsidiary of Scandinavian carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle, plans to launch flights from Ireland to the US in July.
The unions launched an appeal earlier this year seeking to have NAI's permit revoked or reconsidered by the US Department of Transportation (DOT).
The unions, including the Airline Pilots' Association, the Association of Flight Attendants and the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association, have challenged the DOT's controversial decision in new court filings in Washington.
They have lodged a statement of issues for review with the US Court of Appeals in the District of Colombia claiming the DOT has erred in three ways in arriving at its final decision to issue the permit to NAI under the so-called Open Skies agreement.
Unions appealing the granting of the permit have insisted that the DOT misinterpreted Article 17 of the Open Skies agreement by not reading the article with other provisions in the agreement "in a way that would give effect to the intent of the article".
Article 17 of the air agreement, the unions have told the court, was designed to ensure that labour standards would not be undermined via the implementation of the agreement.
Unions in the United States have consistently claimed that Norwegian is attempting to circumvent stricter labour rules in its home country by setting up the Irish subsidiary - an allegation Norwegian has continuously denied.
The unions have also said that the DOT granted the permit to NAI last December without putting it to a public interest evaluation.
Their third grounds for appeal states that the DOT failed to impose conditions on the NAI permit that would ensure the airline's operations "would be consistent with the intent expressed" in Article 17.
"If DOT decided to grant NAI a permit, the Department should have placed conditions on the permit requiring that NAI's pilots and flight attendants be employed on contracts governed by US or EU law," the unions' court filing said.
Norwegian says the claims are untrue. "These are tired and false allegations already dismissed by the DOT's order last year," said a Norwegian spokesman.