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Future Of Transcontinental Cheap Airplane Tickets
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Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) is known for its cheap travel options including cheap deals, cheap fares, cheap airplane tickets, discount travel deals, and cheap vacation packages, as evidenced by pricing flights between London and the United States as cheaply as $299 round trip.
Operating new Boeing Dreamliners, the airline offers cheap flights from New York and Fort Lauderdale to Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm, to be supplemented later this year by routes to Los Angeles, Oakland and Orlando.
The carrier is planning on launching low-fare service this July from New York, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale to London Gatwick.
The route expansion is being accompanied by a bold corporate plan to register the airline’s long-haul aircraft in Ireland to establish the company as an Irish airline, using contract crews hired through a staffing agency. Presumably this will enable the airline to achieve lower labor costs than would otherwise be possible.
This airline first launched service to the U.S. in 2013. It has recently filed for a permanent license from the US Department of Transportation (DOT) in the name of Norwegian Air International, which it says will be an Irish airline. Irish Aviation Authority approval for this airline is expected in early 2014.
The U.S. Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the AFL-CIO have filed statements opposing U.S. approval for this airline to operate in the United States claiming that Norwegian is seeking to establish an Irish identity just so that it can evade the social laws of Norway in order to lower the wages and working conditions of its air crew.
The labor groups want the DOT to block the airline from flying in America based on public interest grounds, pointing to a U.S. statutory mandate to promote “fair wages and working conditions” in aviation.
The U.S. and the European Union (EU) previously signed a multilateral open-skies accord that permits any airline of the EU to operate between the U.S. and any EU country. This pact extends to the European Common Aviation Area, which includes non EU countries such as Norway.
This agreement makes it theoretically possible for a Norwegian firm to establish an affiliate in an EU country with a favorable business climate, such as Ireland, and operate between the U.S. and any point in the EU.
U.S. labor groups fear that a European common airline market that preserves local labor, tax, and licensing regimes of individual countries, could work to the disadvantage of American airline workers.
Airline employee representatives from Europe and America are encouraging the DOT to refuse to license the new airline to operate flights into and out of the U.S. The labor groups contend that Norwegian is trying to set itself up in Ireland with the “express intent of evading” Norway laws.
They are claiming that the DOT should not allow an airline to “shop around for the labor laws and regulations that best suits its bottom line.” The unions do not allege that Norwegian is breaking any U.S. or EU laws.
Norwegian has responded to such complaints noting that it is in compliance with the U.S. – Europe open skies agreement, and that the objections of U.S. labor groups are not legitimate reasons for the U.S. to block the airline’s license.
If public interest is the major concern, then Norwegian says it is clearly serving the public’s best interest as indicated by having already provided over 100,000 passengers with industry leading cheap airplane tickets, as well as a high quality travel experience between the United States and Europe.
The airline has recruited 170 cabin crew members in New York and Fort Lauderdale and expects to soon open crew bases for them in these cities. The company is openly encouraging American pilots to come work for it.
Given that Ireland is an EU member in good standing, and that Aer Lingus has been flying to the U.S. since 1958, it appears strange that labor groups would contend that an air carrier regulated by Ireland would somehow be unworthy of serving the U.S. market. In fact it appears that the future of cheap airplane tickets to and from the United States to Europe may well benefit from the launch of Norwegian’s new Irish airline.
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