Irish approve Norwegian’s non-Irish airline

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has granted a permanent operating licence and Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) to Norwegian Air International – a long-haul subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle – which seeks to fly between Europe, Thailand and the USA.

But European pilots are warning that with this, the IAA sets a harmful precedent allowing airlines to ‘shop around’ for lenient legislation, bypassing regulatory, tax and social obligations that their competitors have to comply with in their countries. It also raises questions about the potential flight safety implications of NAI’s deliberately complex business structure.

“The Irish Aviation Authority’s decision will have serious safety and social repercussions: competition in aviation is welcome but Norwegian’s ‘business’ model is a book example for a ‘flag of convenience’, opening the way to social dumping and undermining labour standards. This contravenes the EU-US Air Transport Agreement which contains distinct provisions against such practices,” said Nico Voorbach, ECA president. “We therefore urge the EU Commission to take a firm stance to ensure the provisions of the EU-US Agreement are respected. For the same reason we call upon the US Department of Transport to refuse a foreign air carrier permit to NAI.”

The ECA said using the Irish AOC, the airline seeks to perform long-haul flights to the US as an Irish airline, without ever touching Ireland – but benefiting from Ireland’s favorable tax regime – while hiring pilots with Singaporean temporary contracts, basing them in Bangkok (Thailand), but allowing them (de facto) to live in Europe, where they will neither pay taxes nor social security.

“Passenger safety is the other crucial issue, as we have severe concerns about the ability of the Irish authority to perform adequate safety oversight on such a complex and opaque company set-up,” said Philip von Schöppenthau, ECA secretary general. “NAI’s business set up contains a similar mix of elements that contributed to the fatal Cork accident and its ‘employment’ model discourages an open incident reporting by crews hired on temporary contracts in Asia. Regulators on both sides of the Atlantic must think carefully about the potential safety implications their decision might have.”

Read More: Ireland hits back on safety record

Posted in Airlines, CAAs/ANSPs, News

One Response to Irish approve Norwegian’s non-Irish airline

  1. Samuel says:

    The “flag of convenience” is a valid point.

    Hiring of cheap overseas labour (Bangkok based crews) to fly flights from UK and other EU gateways to the US will obviously put both US and EU carriers at a cost disadvantage, and raises yet more issues.