The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently considering whether or not it will honor its EU-U.S. open skies treaty in the case of Norwegian Air Shuttle’s Norwegian Air International (NAI), a low-cost airline seeking to expand service throughout Europe and the United States.
European regulators have already approved NAI operations, rejecting the protectionist outrage from domestic airlines and their unions who have been alleging bogus labor violations. Regulators in Ireland, where Norwegian is domiciled, are fuming at the Obama White House’s apparent anti-consumer protectionism that has led to these delays. The European Cockpit Association, having lost its case in Europe, is now lobbying the FAA to kill NAI’s expansion plans.
But the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents over 50,000 mostly high-paid pilots in the U.S. (the median annual wage is $129,600, excluding generous benefits) and Canada, has sunk to a new low. ALPA is airing a radio ad that largely relies on xenophobic language to make their “case” against Norwegian. A sample line: “NAI calls itself Norwegian, but it registers its airplanes in Ireland, hires its pilots in Singapore, and bases its flight crews in Thailand.” Ireland, Singapore, and Thais, oh my! (Then again, this isn’t the first time ALPA has tolerated rank bigotry from its officials.)
The union is also running a full-page ad in The Washington Post expressing the same anti-consumer sentiment colored by anti-foreign bias. While they have yet to get as explicitly and disgustingly nationalistic in their calls for protectionism, the U.S. domestic airline industry is also opposed to NAI’s entry. These calls should be rejected, as was articulated by two respected former U.S. secretaries of transportation.
At its core, unions and U.S. domestic airlines are upset that Norwegian Air has developed a business model that can support lower airfares. If they succeed in blocking NAI’s expansion, American consumers will face higher prices and will be less able to afford trips to Europe. In addition, Norwegian Air’s current plan to buy 20 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be scuttled if the Obama White House rejects its application and violates the EU-U.S. open skies treaty, costing the manufacturer a deal worth $5 billion. ALPA claims it supports The American Worker, but it really only supports its members and is willing to harm unionized manufacturing workers to get its way.
We hope the White House rejects the bigotry expressed by ALPA and stands with consumers by having the FAA comply with our treaties. The only right choice is to grant NAI a Foreign Airline Operating Certificate.