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Opposition to Norwegian Air International sweeps Capitol Hill

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Amid enormous opposition to Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) foreign air carrier permit application, the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA­) took new action to inform even greater numbers of Americans about the threat that NAI’s business plan poses to fair competition and U.S. jobs and why the Obama administration should deny it.
In the context of resounding protest from Members of Congress and more than 16,000 airline pilots, ALPA this week launched an outreach campaign featuring ads in prominent Washington, D.C. news outlets. The ads were co-sponsored with the AFL-CIO and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. In addition, ALPA released a whiteboard video underscoring how NAI’s business model would undermine labor standards and the intent of a U.S. international trade agreement to threaten a free marketplace and U.S. jobs.
“Thousands of concerned passengers, cargo shippers, and airline pilots have called for the Obama administration to ensure fair and free competition for U.S. aviation workers,” said Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president. “Today, even greater numbers of Americans will be able to learn of NAI’s plan to ignore U.S. trade policy, lower labor standards, and gain an unfair advantage in competing against U.S. airlines—all reasons the application should be denied.”
On April 15, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tentatively approved NAI’s request for a foreign air carrier permit to allow it to operate flights to the United States. NAI’s business plan, which was devised to allow it to avoid Norwegian labor, tax, and regulatory laws, is inconsistent with the intent of the U.S.–EU Air Transport Agreement (ATA).
NAI plans to use flight crews employed on Asian employment contracts while flagged in Ireland, creating a flag-of-convenience scheme that is completely at odds with the ATA. The ATA includes a labor provision known as Article 17 bis that requires the DOT to ensure that opportunities under the agreement are not used to undermine labor standards.
Recently, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) introduced bipartisan legislation (H.R. 5090) in the U.S. House that directs the DOT to require foreign airlines to meet the standards agreed to in U.S. air transport agreements before allowing them to fly to the United States.
In sum, more than 200 Members of Congress have sent letters to the DOT asking the administration to prioritize the ATA’s labor article in its evaluation of NAI’s application. Congressional language in both the FY2015 and FY2016 appropriations bills demanded that the DOT give Article 17 bis appropriate consideration as an essential element of the ATA.
“Americans in the tens of thousands have felt driven to oppose NAI’s permit application because it’s an affront to fair competition today, but also because of the risk to aviation workers’ jobs tomorrow,” said Capt. Canoll. “If one airline succeeds in running roughshod over the principles of U.S. air transport policy, it’s not difficult to imagine that others will make the same attempt. The U.S. government owes it to U.S. workers to enforce its own trade policies and deny NAI’s permit application to serve the United States.”
ALPA is part of a labor alliance, representing more than 200,000 aviation workers, calling on the Obama administration to enforce U.S. trade agreements and defend good jobs and fair competition. Find out more at ttd.org/denynai.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the largest airline pilot union in the world and represents over 52,000 pilots at 30 U.S. and Canadian airlines. Visit the ALPA website at www.alpa.org or follow us on Twitter @WeAreALPA.

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