DeltaPoints points me to the largest US pilots’ union attempt to gather signatures in opposition to Norwegian Air Shuttle operating to the United States.
Here’s their headline argument:
A decision to oppose Norwegian Air Shuttle’s application to fly in and out of the United States should be a no brainer for the White House. U.S. jobs and the future of the U.S. aviation industry are at stake. U.S. pilots, and the millions of American air travelers whose lives are in their hands, are watching this closely. They are expecting a decision that chooses U.S. carriers and pilots over sketchy foreign competitors.
Notice they make an insinuation about safety — air travelers whose lives are in their hands “are watching this closely” but ALPA doesn’t actually say that Norwegian is any less safe. Norwegian is called ‘sketchy’ but the only substantive issue identified is that U.S. jobs “are at stake” — even though Norwegian can only add jobs in the US directly, the ‘risk’ would be if they outcompete airlines by offering consumers lower prices and thus those airlines shrink.
ALPA’s objection is that Norwegian operates at lower cost than airlines with union pilots.
A Norwegian company called Norwegian Air International (NAI), which plans to have its principal operations in Oslo, Norway, is trying to register to operate as an Irish airline. NAI does not plan to operate flights from Ireland. Its pilots are contracted through a Singapore employment company. NAI does not operate in Singapore.
If that sounds odd, that’s because it is. NAI is scheming to fly into the United States and avoid regulatory oversight and labor accountability so it can lower costs to a point at which U.S. air carriers will be unable to compete, ensuring the company profits at the expense of American jobs.
If it succeeds, NAI’s business practices pose a serious threat to tens of thousands of U.S. airline jobs– and to our recovering economy as a whole. It doesn’t feel right, and it just isn’t fair to hardworking Americans who play by the rules.
And yet it’s not clear what ‘doesn’t feel right’ or is odd.
Safety concerns are a ruse, Irish-registered airlines have to comply with safety regulations (think Aer Lingus) both of Ireland of the countries they fly to (U.S.).
Norwegian’s structure isn’t even uncommon in transportation, it’s very similar to how cruise ships operate.
Many US companies — like Apple, Facebook, General Electric, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Starbucks, Microsoft, Oracle aand Pfizer — use Irish corporate structures to minimize taxes.
And airlines frequently fly between two countries other than the their home country; that’s called 5th Freedom rights. For example, just off the top of my head —
- Lufthansa flies Bangkok – Saigon and Baku – Ashgabat
- Air Madagascar flies Bangkok – Guangzhou
- KLM flies Singapore – Bali
- KLM and Kuwaiti fly Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur
- Kuwaiti flies London – New York.
- Sri Lankan, Emirates, Kenya Airways, Royal Jordanian all fly Bangkok – Hong Kong.
- Qatar flies Phnom Penh – Saigon
- LAN, Emirates, and China Airlines fly Auckland – Sydney.
- Korean, British Airways, China Eastern, and Emirates all fly Colombo, Sri Lanka – Male.
If Qatar Airways and its labor practices don’t preclude US flying, then its not clear why Norwegian should raise issues. Except that Norwegian tends to offer really low fares.
Indeed, Norwegian doesn’t receive government subsidies like many Middle Eastern carriers do (which sometime leads to complaints about unfair competition). And they pay wages similar to Finnair, which oddly doesn’t generate the same protests.
The pilots union and the airlines have teamed up (how often does that happen?) to fight Norwegian. I won’t give either the satisfaction of my signature.