Norwegian has issued a letter to Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc, thanking her for her actions thus far intervening in the matter of delayed USDOT approvals for NAI and NUK, the airline group says U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio earned over $882,000 from the unions oposing approval of NAI’s transatlantic operations, citing “publically available information.”
The records Norwegian refers to from OpenSecrets.org show that Congressman DeFazio’s primary campaing contributors are: Air Transport unions, Air Transport companies, Airlines, and Transport Unions.
In its letter to Commissioner Bulc, Norwegian points out the impractical nature of claims that it would employ Bangkok-based crew to operate Ireland-based NAI’s or UK-based NUK’s planned flights to U.S. cities, and addresses the “flag of convenience” accusations made against the airlines’ operations by parties in the U.S., including U.S. Congressman DeFazio, who issued his own open letter to Ms. Bulc this July.
“To do as Mr. Defazio asserts would make no sense whatsoever. Indeed, were Norwegian to base crewmembers operating transatlantic operations in Asia, we would have to fly them half-way round the globe (blocking revenue generating seats), pay salary, hotel and per diem expenses and allow them to complete mandatory rest periods, all this before they could even commence their active duty on transatlantic. As a low-cost carrier, Norwegian cannot afford this sort of folly,” Norwegian states in the letter.
Instead, as Norwegian points out its transatlantic services employ “almost exclusively crew based in Europe and in the U.S.”.
The airline group does acknowledge that it Bangkok-based crew serving its Europe-Asia flights, which the airline writes are expected to “increase rapidly in the coming years”, and that, “On occasion, crewmembers based in the United States or Europe are asked to perform a flight leg to Asia when duty time and geographic positioning so allow, and Bangkok-based crewmembers are asked to do a transatlantic flight in similar circumstances.”
Norwegian states that such crew assignments are legal and inherent to operating a global network, but also highlights that NAI has pledged to use only U.S. and European crews on transatlantic routes, “except if compelled by extraordinary and unforseen operational issues” once the USDOT has issued the operating permit.
The airline group also addresses allegations of lower-pay for its Bangkok based crew and the claim by oponents that Norwegian’s employment practices constitute “social dumping” saying that the “remuneration levels for pilots are practically identical across all the bases. The remuneration levels of the Bangkok based cabin crew are at the same levels as their U.S. and higher than some of their European colleagues.”
“With respect to pilots, Mr. DeFazio falsely asserts that ‘in order to join Norwegian’s workforce, they must contract with a “crew leasing specialist” in Singapore and abide by terms governed under Singapore law.’ The truth is that pilots recruited for Norwegian’s transatlantic services have been and will continue to be offered employment contracts governed by the laws of the United Kingdom, where Norwegian has established its largest pilot base.”
Norwegian says that while the group offered Bangkok based pilots the option to switch to UK bases with UK law labor contracts only a few chose to do so, and that pilots based in Bangkok are paid salaries equal to their European colleagues. The application of “Singapore law” for employment contracts, Norwegian says, is common practice in Southeast Asia where “the clarity and predictability of Singapore law are much valued.”
Among other point-by-point responses to claims made by oponents, Norwegian also names the fallacy of “flag of convenience” claims, characterising them as “a false analogy.”
“Mr. DeFazio has simply appropriated a derogatory term from maritime commerce and used it to imply that establishing an airline in Ireland is akin to a U.S . or European company ‘flagging out’ ships to third-world nations such as Liberia,” Norwegian writes.
Special thanks to Trevor Buckley of FlyingInIreland for sharing the full text of this letter.