August 18, 2014
DOT Must Exercise Its Authority to
Unilaterally Deny NAI
European Commission Official Acknowledges for the First Time that Article 17 bis Can Be Used to Reject Air Carrier Permit Applications
WASHINGTON––The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) today joined with the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO and the European Cockpit Association in calling on the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to exercise its authority to reject Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) request for foreign air carrier operating authorizations that would allow it to serve U.S. markets.
“The Department of Transportation must exercise its authority under the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement and deny Norwegian Air International’s request to fly to and from the United States,” said Capt. Lee Moak, ALPA’s president. “NAI’s business model violates the principles of the agreement and is not in the U.S. public interest.”
The union filed joint comments with the U.S. DOT in response to its August 4 notice regarding the views expressed by the Director of Aviation of the European Commission’s Directorate of General Mobility and Transport. The filing addresses NAI’s request for the foreign air carrier permit as well as for an exemption, which a carrier may apply for to cover the time during which its permit application is pending.
In its filing, ALPA noted that this is the first time the director has recognized that a violation of Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement can constitute a sufficient reason to reject a request for a foreign air carrier permit application or an exemption. Article 17 bis states that the opportunities created by the agreement are not to be used to undermine labor standards.
“ALPA could not agree more strongly with the European Commission director’s acknowledgment for the first time that violation of the labor provision of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement can serve as a sufficient reason to deny foreign air carrier applications or operating authorizations,” continued Capt. Moak.
NAI has established itself as an Irish airline in order to avoid Norway’s employment laws and to be able to “rent” its pilots through a Singapore employment company. The pilots, who the company says are based in Thailand, work under individual employment contracts that contain compensation substantially below that of the Norway-based pilots who fly for NAI’s parent company.
ALPA’s joint comments to the DOT refuted the director’s position that a U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement signatory must consult with the other party involved before granting or rejecting a foreign air carrier application or exemption under the labor article of the agreement. In the case of NAI, under the director’s interpretation, the United States would have to consult with Ireland before granting or denying NAI’s request to fly to and from U.S. markets.
“Congress never intended for a foreign country to wield veto power over the Department of Transportation or its authority to deny or allow a foreign airline to fly to and from the United States,” said Capt. Moak.
ALPA’s comments also underscore that the European Commission director does not speak for any signatory to the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement and go on to state that many EU countries do not share the director’s view. Additionally, the Air Crew Working Group of the Sectoral Dialogue Committee, which is recognized by the European Commission as the joint labor-management body that addresses labor issues in the airline sector in the EU, has submitted comments to the DOT opposing NAI. European airlines including Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, and Scandinavian Airlines have also opposed NAI’s application.
“The simple fact is that NAI’s business model fails to adhere to the principles of the labor agreement to which all countries that signed the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement––including Ireland––are expected to abide,” concluded Capt. Moak. “For that reason, the U.S. DOT must exercise its authority to deny NAI’s exemption.”
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 51,000 pilots at 31 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.
CONTACT: ALPA Media, 703/481-4440 or Media@alpa.org
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