Norwegians Cork to Boston route in jeopardy

Norwegians Cork to Boston route in jeopardy

Bjørn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle, marks the airline's inaugural flight to New York from London in 2014

Norwegian Air International (NAI) are in the process of securing approval for trans-atlantic operations planned to begin in May 2016, unless the US Department of Transportation has anything to do with it.

NAI announced last year that it planned to begin operating Cork-to-Boston and Cork-to-New York routes beginning in April 2016 and May 2017, respectively.

Those plans could be in jeopardy as the US Department of Transportation (DoT) has stalled their application for over two years.

An average application for a Foreign Carrier Permit to operate these routes takes roughly 53 days.

One of the main reasons for NAI's application being stalled is their parent company's "nation-shopping" employment model that it employs its flight-crews under.

Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) use a Bangkok employment agency which allows it to avail of lower wages and labour standards compared to in the EU or US.

The fear is that NAI will also use the very same employment model for its Trans-Atlantic routes as NAS.

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Norweigian Air Cork Boston

The application is also opposed by the current market operators (BA, Aer-Lingus, American Airlines, Lufthansa) as the results of granting NAI approval would begin a “race to the bottom” in aviation labour standards.

This ‘flag of convenience’ business model used by NAS is argued to be a violation of the U.S.-EU Open Skies trade agreement.

The agreement governs the operation and oversight of transatlantic flights between the U.S. and Europe.

Low-cost flights have become to norm for short-haul travel and people are accustomed to them.

Low-cost long-haul flights have been something airlines have dreaming of for years, some have tried and many have failed.

Norwegian are the latest to try break into this market with a 'flag of convenience' business model to their advantage which they currently employ their flight-crews under.

Long-haul flights are known for being high priced, and the reason is the high costs of flying further distances.

If an airline could use economies of scale, very-very low operating costs, and reduced employment costs it could give them a massive advantage in this market.

However, this would begin a "race to the bottom" between the current competitors in the Trans-Atlantic market.

The U.S. airlines do not want this to happen nor do the European's, as it would directly affect labour standards and reduce wages for staff.

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American Airlines Runway Trans-Atlantic Operator


The news of Norwegian's planned new routes was welcomed by the Cork airport as it would help to boost connectivity for the region.

Cork airport has in recent times seen numbers of travellers drop, while Dublin and Shannon airport traffic soars.

Shannon airport is again gaining a boost with Aer Lingus announcing Shannon to Boston routes starting this summer, adding an additional 6,000 extra seats for the season.

Norwegian Air spokeswoman stated that their trans-atlantic flights from cork were "only the beginning of our plans for expansion in Ireland."

“But these new routes still rely on the (DoT) finally approving Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign carrier permit,” she said.

"It is clear that there is huge support for these new routes from the Irish authorities, the airport and the wider public – we urge the DoT to finally give their approval which will unlock the door for these new routes, bringing greater competition, more choice and better fares for passengers on both sides of the Atlantic.”

“The application involves novel and complex issues and we are taking the necessary time to evaluate the long-term application appropriately,” said a Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

Revealing that the US agency was still reviewing the permit application and a decision hasn't been made.

There is no statutory deadlines or estimates for how long the process would take, she added.

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US Department of Transportation Aviation

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) is directly involving itself in the matter of NAI's Foreign Carrier Permit application.

Irish Airline Pilots Association (IALPA) has claimed that the IAA are interfering in issues that don't concern it, says president of IALPA, Evan Cullen.

Mr Cullen has accused IAA and Norwegian Air International of personally attacking him in recents letters sent by both organisations to the west Cork TD Jim Daly.

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.

President Obama signalled back in March in a meeting with Enda Kenny that he expects NAI to be in a position soon to start flying from Ireland to the United States.

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

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

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