Italian professor Giorgio Sacerdoti is set to act as arbitrator on behalf of the European Union in an upcoming case with the United States regarding Norwegian Air flights between Cork/Shannon and Boston. An expert in international law, Professor Sacerdoti previously worked on behalf of the World Bank and World Trade Organisation on the settlement of international disputes. The delay in granting a foreign carrier permit to Norwegian Air International (NAI) is unprecedented. The airline first submitted an application three years ago. The European Union's frustration at the delay led them to triggering the arbitration process for settling such disputes. Sacerdoti's appointment is an indication that the EU wants this matter resolved quickly.
Sacerdoti’s appointed was welcomed by MEP (Member of the European Parliament) from Ireland South Deirdre Clune, who has also written to the US Transport Secretary Anthony Foxx in recent days, calling on him to approve the permit before the end of his term on January 20.
Clune described Sacerdoti as a “suitably qualified candidate” noting that he “has served eight years in the appellate body of the World Trade Organisation.”
By basing NAI, a subsidiary of Norwegian Air, in the Republic of Ireland the airline had hoped to take advantage of the Open Skies Agreement, which allows EU-registered airlines to fly to the US from anywhere in Europe. However, they have been met with opposition from US aviation unions, airlines, and some politicians.
Despite making a tentative decision in April 2016 to grant a foreign carrier permit to the Irish-based airline, the US Department of Transport has failed to confirm the license amid the push back on the new routes.
America's main concerns with NAI’s proposed route is the rumor that the airline plans to outsource employment to Asian countries, an accusation they have firmly denied. The airline has, in turn, accused their opponents of creating a “wildly inaccurate fear-mongering situation.”
In July, the EU announced they were to take the unprecedented step of arbitration over the failure of the US authorities to grant Norwegian air a license, believing the delay to be in direct contravention of the EU/US Open Skies agreement. Under the process, three arbitrators will be named to attempt to put an end to the dispute: one chosen by the EU, one by the US and a third by mutual consent.
If the US is found to have breached the EU/US open skies agreement, the EU could suspend US airlines' benefits under the 2007 pact.
“We cannot allow this situation to drag on indefinitely,” Clune continued.
“I am concerned about what consequences this matter could have, not only for relations in aviation but for overall transatlantic relations. It is of the utmost importance that agreements like Open Skies are upheld and this impasse sets a bad example at a time when bilateral ties may be strained and questioned by many sectors of our societies.
“I have asked Mr. Foxx to swiftly conclude this matter within the timeframe of the current US political administration. I hope that we can get a resolution on this matter and that Norwegian can begin flying between Shannon and Cork and the US.
“There is enormous potential here for the Southern counties of Ireland. More flights to the US brings connectivity, investment potential, and tourism. It provides us with options and makes us a more attractive prospect for those who are looking to invest and relocate to counties like Cork, Limerick, Clare, Kerry, and Tipperary.”
Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny has previously called on US President Barack Obama to put an end to the delays in establishing the Norwegian Airlines' Cork to Boston route, appealing to “common sense” to end the months-long stalemate on a foreign carrier permit.
NAI originally planned to begin a Cork to Boston route this past summer. They further planned to eventually extend to the service to Barcelona and add a Cork-New York route in 2017. The direct service between Boston and Cork is expected to be offered by the budget carrier four to five days a week, with tickets costing between $300 and $350 for a round trip.
The airline has since been pipped to the post somewhat, as Icelandic airline Wow Air announced last month they would rolling out transatlantic services between eight key North American cities and Cork Airport for less than $163.00 (€149.00) one way as of May 2017.