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Norwegian claims EC support for US services;
ALPA cites safety concerns
Norwegian Air International (NAI), the
long-haul arm of low-cost carrier (LCC)
Norwegian Air Shuttle, has claimed
European Commission support in its
efforts to gain US approval to fly between
Europe and the US.
Some US and European carriers and
trade unions have complained that NAI is
setting up under a “flag of convenience”
by registering itself in Ireland to avoid
Norway’s strict social and employment
legislation, a charge the airline denies.
In an August filing, NAI notified the US
Department of Transportation (DOT) of
the European Commission’s view that par-ties to the US-EU Open Skies Agreement
cannot unilaterally deny NAI’s application
to serve the US on the basis of Article 17,
which states that the opportunities created
by the agreement are not to be used to
undermine labor standards.
NAI cited the commission’s views from
a meeting between US and commission
officials, where the latter were asked their
views on whether a party to Open Skies
could unilaterally deny an application of
the other party based on the so-called
“social dimension” provision of the agree-
ment—a key argument by NAI’s opponents
who have been urging DOT to deny NAI’s
Norwegian said the commission’s support for its position meant there was no
legal basis to deny NAI its application.
NAI says that, despite meeting all US
statutory and regulatory requirements to
serve the US, its application for authority
to fly to the US has been pending with the
DOT for almost six months, the longest of
any other similar carrier’s application.
“We commend [US] Secretary
[Anthony] Foxx in seeking the commis-
sion’s comments on this pertinent issue—
and the commission for its sound judg-
ment that is consistent with established
US and EU delegations who led the negoti-
ation of the historic Open Skies
Agreement, and international
law,” NAI CEO Asgeir Nyseth
The Air Line Pilots
Association, Int’l (ALPA),
meanwhile, joined with
the Transportation Trades
Department of the AFL-CIO
and the European Cockpit
Association in opposing NAI’s
ALPA, which has made the
NAI application one of its key
advocacy campaigns, is concerned about Norwegian’s business model and the potential for
the airline industry to start turning to “flags of convenience,”
which the maritime industry
uses to avoid their home country’s labor regulations.
ALPA said in a statement
on its website that 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.”
“Congress never intended for a for-
eign 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,” ALPA
president Lee Moak said.
At a roundtable with ATW editors in
August, Moak said, “the safety and secu-
rity issues raised long term in the flag of
convenience model gives us great pause.
Airlines cannot sit adrift in the Gulf of
Mexico waiting for help to come. There is
a fundamental responsibility of a govern-
ment to ensure that this is a safe airline.”
Norwegian Air International is registered in Ireland.
IATA seeks to eliminate check-in process
IATA has launched a project to
evaluate whether the check-in
process is redundant, although
it acknowledges the change
won’t be easy to implement.
“We are working on a process called ‘no more check-in.’
It’s gone; it’s history,” IATA
head of passenger experience
Paul Behan told ATW.
IATA wants to update the
process so passengers can
book and confirm flights, select
seats and receive boarding
passes in one transaction.
Originally, check-in was
a sign that a passenger was
present at the airport, but
passengers can now check in
“In terms of the work plan,
we cannot work from A-Z.
We have to start at Z and
work back to A. The output
is a boarding token, so we
have to look at what systems
you interact with at the point
of boarding. Almost every
part of the process that
the boarding pass is con-
nected with will have to be
reviewed,” he said.
“We will probably have some
initial answers at the beginning
of quarter two. If that is all okay,
we will go into independent
feasibility testing. It is a major
game changer and everyone will
be impacted. Will it be worth it?
I think so,” Behan said.