Three major European carriers have made representations to the European Commission (EC), opposing plans by Norwegian Air International (NAI) to start transatlantic operations.
Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa have effectively joined US opponents of Ireland-registered NAI, which wants to start low-cost services to the US. They claim that, by using Thai personnel based in Ireland, the Scandinavian airline is attempting to circumvent expensive Norwegian employment legislation. NAI, a subsidiary of low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle, has repeatedly denied the charge.
NAI’s application to fly to the US has been stalled in the US Department of Transportation for months and the EC has been supportive of the Norwegian carrier’s application, calling on the US to observe the spirit of the Open Skies agreement.
Now, in an open letter to EC president Jean-Claude Juncker and several EC commissioners, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa—together with several European pilots’ and cabin crew unions—have urged the EC to oppose NAI’s proposals.
In the latest round of the increasingly heated argument over NAI’s plans, they accuse NAI of “abuses of European social standards in the field of aviation,” arguing that “they intend to employ crewmembers from Thailand that are hired through a Singaporean agency.
“Competition in aviation is intense and it keeps us sharp. However, through business models like this we risk entering a downward spiral to the social bottom, risking thousands of qualified European jobs. European aviation currently provides 9.3 million jobs and adds €512 billion ($638 billion) to European GDP.
“If we allow Norwegian Air International to start employing Thai crew on the EU-US routes, others will soon follow and jobs will be lost inside the European Union and created elsewhere. The US has temporarily denied Norwegian Air International’s request for a foreign carrier permit. The European Commission should now take a strong stance and prevent Norwegian Air International from abusing European social standards and legislation through employing Thai crew. We need to preserve European jobs instead of outsourcing them to other continents.”