US moves to ban Norwegian flights over labour laws

US moves to ban Norwegian flights over labour laws

Washington has approved legislation to prevent Norwegian from flying to the US because of concerns the low-cost carrier will dodge international labour rules.

However, the transportation funding bill must be reconciled with the US Senate before becoming law.

The White House earlier announced it “strongly opposes” the legislation, for reasons other than the airline debate, USA Today reported.

But an amendment seeks to prevent the US Department of Transportation from granting approval of Norwegian Air International to serve the US.

Rival US airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association, a union representing 50,000 pilots, have criticised the Norwegian proposal because it would operate under a certificate from Ireland and hire Asian workers at rates lower than are competitive in the US and Europe.

“Congress has a responsibility to make sure that US airlines do business in a fair marketplace and that the US government’s transportation funds don’t hand an advantage to foreign airlines that try to cheat the system,” said Captain Lee Moak, president of the pilots union.

The proposal deals with a proposed long-haul subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, which flies 20 million passengers a year to 126 destinations, including New York, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. The subsidiary would be called Norwegian Air International.

John Byerly, a former US State Department official who now serves as a consultant to the Norwegian airline, was chief negotiator for the 2007 agreement for unfettered airline service between the USA and Europe. He said rejecting the airline proposal could lead to a trade dispute.

“It is simply absurd and ridiculous to assert that the US aviation industry – making record profits, paying high dividends and buying back stock – is in a crisis,” he said.

The airline said: “Norwegian has already employed more than 300 American cabin crew members in Fort Lauderdale and New York, and is currently recruiting New York-based pilots for its 787 Dreamliner operation.

“Norwegian received almost 6,000 applicants for its 300 cabin crew positions. The company’s American employees say that their wages and benefits are superior to those of their counterparts at US airlines.

“Pilots flying intercontinentally have a global pay scale, which means that a long-haul pilot based in Norway makes about the same as a long-haul pilot based in Asia or the US.”

The airline added: “It is important to stress that Ireland was not chosen because the country has specific rules and regulations that allow the use of American or Asian crew, like some politicians and unions have claimed.

“The fact is that Norwegian could have based its long-haul company in any other European country and still used American and Asian crew, the way several other European airlines have been operating for years.”

The airline has been operating flights from the US to Norway for a year with fares starting at $99 one-way and has plans to start transatlantic services from Gatwick.

“Norwegian believes that competition on intercontinental flights is long overdue. Flights between the US and Europe have traditionally been way too expensive,” the airline said.

“Why should a flight between New York and Europe cost three times as much as a flight between New York and Los Angeles?”

Sourced from Travel Weekly


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