Nine out of ten Irish people support the proposed Norwegian Air route between Cork and Boston, a new survey has revealed.
Basing a subsidiary of the company in the Republic of Ireland, the Norwegian 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 but has met with opposition in the US from US aviation unions, airlines and some politicians.
A recent Red C poll, however, revealed that Irish people are open to the idea of the low-cost transatlantic service running from Cork and Shannon, with 82 per cent of Munster residents stating they would use the service.
The survey found that 86 per cent of Irish people feel there is a need for a cheaper transatlantic service such as Norwegian Air would provide.
Chief Executive of Norwegian Air Bjorn Kjos believes the results fall in line with the support already received from the government, aviation authorities and airports.
“This new polling now reveals that the new flights also have broad public support, with passengers keen to benefit from affordable, direct new routes,” he said.
In April 2016, the US Department of Transport (DofT) made a tentative decision to grant a foreign carrier permit to Irish-based airline Norwegian Air International (NAI), a subsidiary of low-fares giant Norwegian Air.
The airline wishes to begin a Cork to Boston route this year, which would extend to Barcelona, and also wish to start a Cork-New York route in 2017.
The plans have been met with some opposition in the US, however, where it has even become a topic addressed by the Democratic presidential candidate nominees.
Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have voiced their opposition to the granting of a foreign carrier license to NAI while thirty-two US Congressmen have written to President Barack Obama urging his administration to block the granting of a foreign carrier license.
Reps. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Lynn A. Westmoreland (R-Ga.) also introduced a bill they say would prevent the Department of Transport from permitting a foreign air carrier to operate between European countries and the United States unless the carrier complies with basic, fair U.S. or European Union labor standards in the hopes of stopping the NAI expansion. It is believed the bill is unlikely to pass.
The main concerns with NAI’s proposed route is the staff that would be employed and the airline have been accused of plans to outsource employment to Asian countries, an accusation they have firmly denied, in turn accusing their opponents of creating a “wildly inaccurate fearmongering situation.”
“We understand that NAI does not plan to locate significant operations in Ireland and may hire some employees under Singaporean or Thai employment contracts,” the Congressmen claimed.
“This structure could allow NAI to avoid the labour and employment protections in Norwegian and EU law. This type of arrangement appears to be exactly what the labour provisions of the agreement (Open Skies) are intended to prevent.”
A spokesman for the airline stated: "Some US politicians and unions are continuing to do everything they can to block the competition, preventing passengers' access to affordable airfares, and blocking the creation of new jobs and significant benefits to Ireland and the US.
"The fact remains that NAI is a recognized EU airline, with a Dublin headquarters, more than 35 aircraft registered in Ireland and a series of new routes from Ireland planned.
"It is also a clear fact that Norwegian always follows labor laws in all the markets we operate, offering competitive wages and conditions. NAI does not have a single Asian-based crewmember or pilot."
Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune rows in behind the bid by Norwegian Air International to get Cork/Boston route off the ground. More at 1.— RedFM News (@RedFMNews) May 14, 2016
Jonathan Galaviz, an airline analyst with Global Market Advisors, a travel industry consulting firm, believes to deny NAI a permit would in fact hurt US tourism, saying, “protests against Norwegian Air are nothing but special interests in the U.S. airline industry worried about international competition.”
A timeline for a final decision in the permit is still unknown, although President Obama told Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny in March that there is no legal impediment to the granting of the licence.H/T: Irish Times