Norwegians Cork to Boston route in jeopardy
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.
Read More: Will A Brexit Affect The Aviation Industry?
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.
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.”