Why would Norwegian Air Int’l object to obeying the law?

When Norwegian launched its service to the United States in May, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) did not object.  It was only when Norwegian created the shell corporation Norwegian Air International (NAI) six months later in an attempt, ALPA learned, to move its operation outside of Norway to establish a flag-of-convenience in Ireland to avoid Norwegian labor, tax and regulatory laws did ALPA object. That objection was solely to the NAI business model, not to competition on services to the United States. 

Norwegian’s attempt to misrepresent ALPA’s position misdirects attention from the core issues and illustrates perfectly how Norwegian is willing to say anything in its effort to distract attention from its convoluted scheme to use Singapore contract labor that is based in Thailand, which would not be allowed under Norwegian law.

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NAI’s own statements make it clear that ALPA does not fear “low-cost” competition: we did not oppose Norwegian's initial service to the United States and have not opposed countless other applications for new U.S.-Europe services. But, ALPA absolutely does oppose Norwegian’s attempt to violate U.S. and international law with their new proposed business model. NAI’s public relations tactics should not detract from the truth: NAI should be denied because it runs counter to the U.S. public interest and the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement. Airlines and labor groups from both sides of the Atlantic agree with us.  And so does the U.S. House of Representatives.

On June 9, the House unanimously passed by voice vote an amendment to a transportation funding bill that simply states that if the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approves a foreign air carrier permit application, the permit cannot contravene United States law or Article 17 bis of the U.S.–E.U.–Iceland–Norway Air Transport Agreement. We urge the U.S. Senate to take similar action. The House amendment simply states that the law and the Agreement must be enforced and it doesn’t mention any specific airline or operation.

But get this: NAI vigorously opposed the amendment. NAI undertook an aggressive lobbying campaign to defeat this straightforward amendment that simply upholds existing law. Why would NAI oppose this amendment? Because NAI knows that, if the United States enforces the law and upholds the Agreement, then its new foreign air carrier permit application will be denied, as it doesn’t meet the legal standard set forth in U.S. or international law.

The United States must deny NAI. Norwegian can fly to the United States and offer whatever “low-cost” product it wishes to consumers.  However, it must abide by U.S. and Norwegian law and the agreed upon provisions under the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement.

To deny NAI’s application is to let the marketplace work for consumers on a truly level playing field.

Moak is president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International.