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Airline pilots seek to halt Norwegian Air’s flight bid after Brexit

Airline pilots seek to halt Norwegian Air’s flight bid after Brexit
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Opponents of Norwegian Air’s bid to fly to the United States have new ammunition for their argument: Brexit.

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The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), International maintains that because Britain’s decision to leave the European Union casts uncertainty on how international air rules will now apply to airlines in the United Kingdom, the Department of Transportation (DOT) should halt Norwegian Air UK’s application to gain access to more airports in the U.S. and EU.

The Open Skies agreement allows airlines in the EU to fly to any location in the U.S., and vice versa.

“Significant uncertainty surrounds the timing of the UK’s exit from the EU and its effect on air transportation, including how UK airlines that no longer fall under the U.S.-EU air transport agreement will need to seek approval to serve the United States,” Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president, said in a statement. “With so much in flux following the Brexit vote, the DOT must suspend processing of NAUK’s application until we can determine the rules that would apply to its application.”

ALPA and other union groups submitted a new filing with the DOT this week, urging the agency to suspend its processing of Norwegian Air UK’s application “until the post‐exit regulatory structure that will pertain to the grant of operating authorizations to UK air carriers is determined.”

Norwegian applied for a foreign air carrier permit for its UK subsidiary in order to conduct scheduled and charter flights to the U.S. from London’s Gatwick Airport.

The low-cost air carrier has for years been seeking approval to use airports covered under the U.S. and EU’s Open Skies agreement. The company also established a subsidiary, Norwegian Air International, in Ireland — a member of the EU.
 
Norwegian currently flies to some airports in the U.S. under the banner of its parent company, Norwegian Air Shuttle. But the company says its model for cheaper transatlantic flights requires access to more Open Skies airports, which would provide more route flexibility.

The DOT tentatively approved a permit for the carrier’s Ireland-based subsidiary in April after consulting with both the Justice and State departments and finding no basis to reject the application.

The agency’s move roiled the aviation industry, union groups and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Critics argue that Norwegian Air is attempting to skirt more stringent Norwegian labor and tax laws and claim the air carrier is undermining competition by hiring pilots contracted through Asia, where labor costs are lower.

But Norwegian officials have emphasized that the company will not be using any Asian-based cabin crew on transatlantic flights, and says it chose to establish itself in Ireland for access to future traffic rights to and from the EU and to secure better aircraft financing rates.