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Cork Mayor hits out at accusation that local politicians were "used as pawns" by airline

Plans had been in place for a service to operated between Cork and Boston by Norwegian Air International from May of this year.

File photo of a Norwegian Airlines flight
File photo of a Norwegian Airlines flight
Image: AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

THE ONGOING SAGA over whether or not a Cork to Boston flight will be allowed to go ahead has taken another turn, with the Mayor of County Cork slamming Irish pilots for their objection to the change.

Speaking yesterday, Mayor John Paul O’Shea said that a complaint made by the Irish Air Line Pilots Association (IALPA), the main representative groups for Irish pilots, had: “questioned the integrity of our Irish employment laws and that of our publicly elected officials”. 

“To claim that local politicians in Cork were somehow used as pawns by the airline in the recent General Election is downright insulting,” he went on.

Everyone with an interest in progressing business and tourism in Ireland has been hugely supportive because they can see the benefits.

In its submission earlier this week, the IALPA stated that the situation in Cork around February’s General Election was “especially contentious”.

It stated:

To us, it is clear that the NAI has attempted to tie its application to the election, leveraging Irish elected officials, in the midst of their own campaigns, to advocate on its behalf, even though its claims about its purported inability to start service were misleading at best.

irish air line pilots The submission from the Irish Air Line Pilots Association Source: US Department of Transportation

The dispute over the Cork-Boston route has been brewing since September last year when Norwegian Air International (NAI) unveiled its plans for the service.

The first flights had been due to take off this month, but things haven’t gone as smoothly as the airline might have liked.

Hot on the heels of the announcement, NAI’s bid for permission from the US Department of Transport to operate the flight ran into difficulty – with a number of US-based unions and airlines voicing their opposition.

Much of this is centred on concerns that NAI are planning on using pilots and cabin crew from a third-party company based in Singapore, and is attempting to”use Ireland as a flag of convenience” to circumvent Norwegian employment law.

In its submission the IALPA also said:

Not only does NAI proposed employment model breach the terms of the US-EU agreement, but it disadvantages those EU low-cost airlines who do abide by the labour standards of the US and the EU.

Addressing these concerns, the airline has committed to only using US and EU pilots and crew on the flights.

A number of letters of support for the setting up of the route have also been written to the US Department of Transportation, including from Cork-based TD’s Michael McGrath and Billy Kelleher, and the Irish Aviation Authority.

The planned route has even cropped up on the campaign trail for the Democratic presidential nomination, with White House hopeful Bernie Sanders saying it could set a “dangerous precedent”, with potentially put hundreds of jobs at risk.

DEM 2016 Sanders US Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders Source: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Responding to the criticism, NAI told TheJournal.ie: “IALPA have voiced unfounded allegations and opposition to new transatlantic routes that would bring significant benefits to Ireland.

These routes have widespread support from the EU, the Irish Government, the aviation authorities, airports, airlines such as Ryanair, and the Irish public – it is disappointing that IALPA have chosen to swim against the tide of industry, political and public opinion.
Unfortunately, some unions are continuing to do everything they can to block the competition, preventing passengers access to affordable airfares, and blocking the creation of new jobs and significant benefits to Ireland.

The company has said that it is planning to further expand in Ireland, but that this is dependent on getting the go-ahead from the US Department of Transportation.

Read: Getting from Páirc Uí Chaoimh to Fenway Park has just got a whole lot easier

Also: Those new flights from Cork to Boston may be grounded before takeoff

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