WASHINGTON—The nation’s biggest airlines and their unionized pilots want Republican President Donald Trump to reverse an Obama administration ruling and ban low-cost low-standard low-paying “flag-of-convenience” Norwegian Air International from flying nationwide. And they took that argument to a White House meeting with Trump on Feb. 9.
The Air Line Pilots and other airline unions have waged a long campaign to stop NAI from flying around the U.S. NAI, they point out, evades U.S. and European air transport treaties and labor standards by hiring low-paid workers from Singapore and Thailand and letting them – and the planes – fly under lax labor laws and inspection rules from other nations.
The unions say the effect would be to drive U.S. wages down, drive U.S. airlines out of business and turn the nation’s airspace over to shady “flag-of-convenience” carriers, similar to what happened in the maritime industry.
“Overturning” NAI’s flying permit and “acting to stop Middle Eastern countries from subsidizing their airlines would send a strong signal to U.S. aviation workers that this administration is committed to putting America first,” said ALPA President Tim Canoll, a Delta captain.
Besides the White House meeting, where ALPA member pilots raised the NAI issue, the union has launched an on-line campaign, among its members and the public, to get Trump to reverse the Obama administration pro-NAI ruling. It’s also lobbying Trump’s Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, to overturn it. Chao is a former Bush administration Labor Secretary.Specifically, the union wants Chao “to uphold the Trump administration’s ‘America First’ governing philosophy and immediately examine” NAI’s flying permit “in order to revoke or suspend” it, said Canoll.
In their website letter, ALPA said Obama Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx “ignored our Open Skies agreement with the European Union and approved a flag-of-convenience airline to fly to the U.S. Over time this decision will destroy our U.S. airline industry and all of the (151,000) jobs associated with it.” The letter calls the NAI permit a “terrible, policy-setting decision from a lame-duck president.”