With the Emirates Milan saga, where US & Italian airlines are backing a play to force the Gulf carrier off the Fifth FreedomÂ New York route, it led me to look into similar instances that have happened over the last few months that perhaps lead to a deeper situation.
It seems that US-based airlines and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) are trying their hand at stopping outsider airlines from getting to the United StatesÂ rather than just expanding themselves.
Let’s take a closer look.
As Emirates fights to keep the Milan route, ALPA has been taking other shots at the Gulf carriers that make you wonder just what they are up to. Â In early April, ALPA put out a press release encouraging the US government to stop using the US Export Import (Ex-Im) Bank to fund the expansion of international airlines.
What is the Export Import Bank? Â Well, the best explanation comes from Brett over at Crankyflier, but to put it simply the Ex-Im Bank helps fund the export of US goods to international buyers. Â Have a lovely shiny new American-made aircraft you want to sell to the world? Â These are the guys to speak to. But the reason why the Ex-Im bank is so important is that they are backed by the US government. Â Really, whatever the Ex-Im bank is supporting is more like what the US government is supporting.
So, when ALPA asked the government to â€œtake a good lookâ€ at what the Ex-Im Bank is doing to American jobs when they are helping fund the sale of aircraft to international-based carriers, what they really mean is â€œWhat you think is a good thing, is really taking away airline jobsâ€¦ stop it!â€
When did ALPA start doing this? Â Well, it may have been in the new year, after a raft of orders for the 777X to international airlines were announced,Â and many of those were going to Gulf-based carriers.
It seems that ALPA is not only trying to stop the expansion of the the Gulf carriers, but European ones as well. Â One of the early recipients of the 787 was Norwegian Air International (NAI). Â In 2013, they received their first 787s and shortly began their international expansion with flights to New York, Fort Lauderdale, & Bangkok. Â They soon expanded the reach from their aircraft base in Oslo toÂ other cities in the USA, and announced they want to introduceÂ transatlantic service between the US & Europe/UK. Â Before they could start those flights, Norwegian started to change the way their business was structured.
Since Norway is not part of the EU, they donâ€™t have access to the Open Skies agreement. Â The easiest way to fix that would be to have an airline based in the EU, right? Â That is what NAI did, by registering and applying for an Air Operators Certificate (AOC) in Ireland. Â They chose Ireland since the majority of NAIâ€™s aircraft are registered in this EU country, and they wouldnâ€™t be the only airline that does that.
All of Alitaliaâ€™s current fleet are in the progress of being swapped from Italian registry to Irish to make businessÂ easier withÂ their leased aircraft (apparently Italian law is convoluted, and since they canâ€™t make up their own mind as it is, who knows what they would do when an aircraft needs repossessing).
So if Irish law is fairly easy in regards to registering an aircraft, why not register your whole airline there? Â By doing this, NAI hasÂ opened up their airline withinÂ the EU, and have already started operating flights for their Norwegian-based parent company. Â Confused yet?
Well, to make things worse for your brain,Â Norwegian AirÂ wants to open up a crew base here in the USA, allowing them to use American crews, on Irish-registered aircraft, based in Europe (either UK or Norway), and operating flights for a Norwegian airline that is headquartered in Ireland. Â I think my headÂ just exploded!
But, of course, this is where ALPA comes in. They donâ€™t like the idea of US crew working for an international airline (at bargain pay). Â They think that because NAI has worked around the laws of its own country they have an unfair advantage over the US-based airlines. Â By appealing to the DOT to reject the application for the flights, they are fighting to keep quality US jobs here in the USA, and keeping the American skiesâ€¦ Americanâ€¦ patriotic, right? Well, the ALPA’s responsibility is to protect their 50,000 pilot members.
Norwegian AirÂ wants to expand their operations to additionalÂ cities in both the US & Europe. Â Opening up more cities to extra flights should bring jobs and money, not just to the airline, but to anyone affiliated with tourismÂ businesses, plus the trickle-down effect. Â Even though NAI isÂ a low-cost carrier, that doesnâ€™t mean that everyone who flies them is doing so for leisure purposes. Â Opening up the skies to more airlines means more competition, and thus lower costs. Â How does NAI think they can make this work? Well with a US crew and state-of-the-art Dreamliners, they believe they can make it work.
As the US Airlines & ALPA fight to keep jobs and money here in the USA, are they also cutting off their nose despite their face? Â Is the blocking of US exports to Gulf airlines a smart move, or is it going to hurt the US in other areas if they are successful? Â Who is going to be on the winning side is yet to be seen, but who should that be? Â Perhaps you have an opinion on who is doing the right thing here?
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