U.S. airline pilots hope President Trump will overturn the Obama administration decision in December to allow Norwegian Air International to fly to the U.S. (Photo: Creative Commons)
Airline pilots who are opposed to Norwegian Air International flights to the U.S. dismissed on Wednesday a White House statement from a day earlier that appeared to support the rival.
The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 55,000 pilots at 32 airlines, and other unions have filed a federal appeal to the Transportation Department’s decision in December to allow Norwegian flights. The unions have also urged President Trump to simply overturn the decision.
But Sean Spicer, the White House spokesman, said Tuesday that Norwegian is hiring U.S. crews and buying Boeing planes that are “a huge economic interest” for the country.
Norwegian spokesman Anders Lindstrom said that no other foreign airline invests more in the American economy or creates more American jobs. The airline flies an all-Boeing fleet of 120 planes and has ordered 120 more, with 500 U.S. based crew members and hundreds more planned, he said Tuesday.
Capt. Tim Canoll, ALPA’s president, told reporters during a conference call Wednesday that Trump himself had been vocal during the campaign and as president about protecting American jobs.
“President Trump has not spoken on this issue,” Canoll said. “We have him speaking very clearly in his first few days as the president of the United States, and certainly as the president-elect and during the campaign, on this issues -- very unambiguous.”
Trump repeated a campaign slogan at his inauguration Jan. 20 that his priority would be “America first.”
“We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American,” Trump said. “Every decision on trade, on tax, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”
Unions opposed the Norwegian approval because the subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle is headquartered in Ireland, which unions contend was done to skirt labor laws. Norwegian strongly denies that.
Capt. Todd Insler, chairman of the Master Executive Council at United Airlines, told reporters that Norwegian Air Shuttle is already buying Boeing planes and flying to the U.S. so there is no need for the subsidiary.
“The airplanes will be manufactured regardless. This isn’t providing any new jobs,” Insler said. “What this is about is skirting the labor law, so they can undercut the U.S. industry.”
The comments about Norwegian came in the days leading up to a Thursday meeting between Trump and airline chief executives. ALPA isn’t invited, but there is some expectation about a discussion of the Norwegian arrangement and a dispute between the Big 3 U.S. carriers of American, Delta and United against state-owned rivals in the Middle East of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.
However, not all U.S. carriers have taken that viewpoint. Some U.S. carriers opposed the "Big 3" effort, including JetBlue and Hawaiian, which offer connections to the Middle East carriers, and FedEx and Atlas Air, which fly freight to the region.
Those airlines have grouped together to help form a coalition called U.S. Airlines for Open Skies, which is opposed to the push being made by the U.S. Big 3.
"The demands of the legacy carriers would reduce competition, undermine Open Skies, and harm the American economy," group spokesman Andrea McCarthy said in statement to Today in the Sky. "Rather than caving to these demands, we should support Open Skies agreements, which benefit American workers, the American military, made-in-America exports, and American travelers."