ITF applauds US DOT decision on Norwegian Air

The ITF has applauded the decision on 2 September by the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to refuse Norwegian Air International (NAI) – a key offender in attempting to introduce flags of convenience (FOCs) in aviation – an exemption for a foreign air carrier permit.

The exemption would have allowed the carrier to launch an airline in violation of American public interest laws and the US-EU open skies trade agreement.

The DOT refusal is a significant victory for the ITF, its European arm the ETF, and the ITF-affiliated members of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL–CIO (TTD) in the United States. They had vigorously campaigned against the NAI plan. Several airlines engaged in genuine social dialogue in line with labour standards also joined the coalition to oppose NAI’s request. NAI is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

Vegard Einan, vice chairman of ITF affiliate PARAT, said: “We welcome this decision by DOT. We support competition in long haul aviation but on a level playing field. NAI is owned in Norway but registered in Ireland, a country it doesn’t even fly to, with European pilots hired through an agency in Singapore, another country it doesn’t fly to. This is the definition of a flag of convenience model. Parat have for a long time warned against this development, which is identical to that seen in the maritime industry. Hopefully the parties of the EU-US open skies agreement will take a more active approach to the challenges of international aviation, to secure sustainable development for all airlines on both sides of the Atlantic. If not, we risk facing a race to the bottom if transparency and fair competition are left behind.”

Joseph Tiberi, transportation chief of staff of ITF affiliate IAM (International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers) and vice chair of the ITF’s civil aviation committee, commented that this victory was unfortunately not the end of the matter. He said that IAM would continue to fight alongside the ITF, ETF and their affiliates for the DOT to permanently refuse the NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit, because of the airline’s poor labour practices in its mission to enter the US aviation market.

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