Unions want 'thorough investigation' of Norwegian airline

A pair of unions for U.S. airline employees are calling for a "thorough investigation" of Norwegian Airlines bid to gain access to airports in the U.S. and European Union.

Norwegian Air is attempting to gain access to airports that are covered under the U.S. and European Union’s “Open Skies” agreement by registering its airplanes in Ireland, which is a member of the EU.

The Scandinavian company says it will be able to offer transatlantic flights for as low as $150 each way if its effort is approved by the Department of Transportation.

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However, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) said Wednesday that the Norwegian airline would only be able to offer the low fares by cutting corners on labor standards.

“AFA remains firmly opposed to any business model that targets the employment security of Flight Attendants and aviation workers," AFA-CWA President Veda Shook said in a statement. "AFA has been working closely with fellow crew members to call attention to NAI’s scheme to contract out pilot and cabin crew jobs and we continue to call upon DOT Secretary Foxx to carefully review NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit."

The bid by Norwegian Airlines to gain entry into the U.S. and European Union markets has roiled the aviation industry.

The airline has argued that critics are unfairly criticizing its business practices because they are trying to protect their current positions in the international flight markets.

Labor groups that represent U.S. airline employees like the AFA have said Norwegian's inclusion in the Open Skies Act would undermine the entire premise of the pact.

The decision on the Norwegian application rests with the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Shook said Wednesday that the agencies should reject the Norwegian Air application.

“AFA remains a strong advocate for global labor standards," she said. "For decades, we have worked to protect aviation careers while encouraging growth and opportunity. We are thankful to our colleagues at ITF who recognize that strong international labor standards are the backbone of a healthy and robust aviation system."

Norwegian Air CEO Bjorn Kjos said in an interview with The Hill last month that opponents of its application are over exaggerating their complaints about its operations.

Kjos said the airline follows labor laws “wherever a crew is based.

“If we’re employing an American crew, we have to pay them the same as other [airlines], or else they wouldn’t have started working for us,” the Norwegian Air CEO said.