Pilots’ union targeting DOT chief with hometown ads

Anne Wernikoff

The Air Line Pilots Association, International union is advertising in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport in an attempt to convince Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to side with its opposition to a bid from Norwegian Airlines 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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Aviation unions have said that the Norwegian airline would only be able to offer the low fares by cutting corners on labor standards, however. 

The decision rests with DOT chief Foxx, who is a former Charlotte Mayor. 

ALPA said this week that it was advertising in Charlotte to capture the attention of Fox and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).  

“We want to remind @USDOT, @SecretaryFoxx that NC is home to 1,730 pilots & thousands more aviation workers,” the labor group tweeted this week. 

A subsequent tweet included Hagan’s Twitter account with a similar message. 

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 ALPA have said Norwegian's inclusion in the Open Skies Act would undermine the entire premise of the pact. 

The transportation department has not yet laid out a timetable for making a decision, which will likely come from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

Norwegian Air CEO Bjorn Kjos said in an interview with The Hill in March 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.

The pilots’ union said this week that Norwegian bid to enter the U.S. market was a “scheme” that “must be stopped,” however. 

“Establishing a flag of convenience model that exploits existing laws and targets the lowest possible standard for the entire airline industry would set a dangerous precedent and destroy U.S. airline’s ability to compete in the global economy,” the union said. 

ALPA said Wednesday that it was advertising in the Washington, D.C. Metrorail subway system. 

“Commuting through #DC @wmata? Seen our ads? Learn more about the campaign: http://sos.alpa.org/ #SaveOurSkies,” the union tweeted