CHARLOTTE, N.C. (TheStreet) -- Anthony Foxx, do you still read The Charlotte Observer?
The campaign to block Norwegian Air International from U.S. flying is coming to Charlotte, where the Air Line Pilots Association said it will mount an advertising and public awareness campaign.
One goal is to gain the attention of Foxx, who was Charlotte's mayor before he became Secretary of Transportation in 2013.
"The Charlotte component will focus on local aviation jobs, urging the people of Charlotte to stand with thousands of their neighbors who work in the aviation industry," ALPA said in a prepared statement.
"ALPA's advertisements about fighting for local jobs and urging DOT to deny the NAI application will be delivered through a number of different mediums -- including local radio, the Charlotte Observer's Web site, and other targeted online communities," the union said.
The major U.S. airlines and airline labor unions have various disagreements among themselves, but they are united in opposition to Norwegian Air International's request for a U.S. Transportation Department permit to expand U.S. service. American (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report, Delta (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Reportand United (UAL) - Get United Airlines Holdings, Inc. Report have jointly filed an objection with the DOT.
Norwegian currently operates flights to the U.S. under Norwegian registration, but it has relocated its long-haul operation's registration to Ireland and requires a new permit. Norwegian Air International would generally offer lower fares and, ALPA contends, lower compensation than U.S. carriers do.
Why Charlotte? "ALPA wants to remind Secretary Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte and Senator (Kay) Hagan that North Carolina is home to 1,730 ALPA pilots and thousands more aviation workers," said ALPA spokesman Michael Robbins.
"These constituents have a lot to lose if Secretary Foxx grants NAI a permit, and Senator Hagan is an influential leader in Washington," the spokesman said said. "Therefore, ALPA wants to raise the question to both, 'Will you stand with North Carolina aviation workers and deny NAI?'"
A DOT spokesperson declined to comment, saying "We are in the midst of a contested proceeding." Hagan's office didn't respond to requests for comment. Robbins did not specify why he did not mention N.C. Sen. Richard Burr.
Norwegian Air has a complex corporate structure. Norwegian Air Shuttle is based in Norway, where Norwegian Long Haul is registered. Norwegian Air International is registered in Ireland, so it can access traffic rights in the European Union, which does not include Norway.
Charlotte is the second-largest hub for American Airlines Group, which merged with US Airways in 2013. American's Charlotte work force totals 9,900. US Airways pilots are represented by the Charlotte-based U.S. Airline Pilots Association, which ousted ALPA in 2008 election. But the two unions are united in opposition to Norwegian.
USAPA spokesman James Ray noted that the Open Skies agreement between the United States and the European Union includes a labor protection provision that said no flights operated under the agreement will undermine labor standards in the countries involved.
"Norwegian is going to extreme measures to minimize the normal responsibilities of employing aviation professionals," Ray said. "Their pilots and flight attendants will not be held to the same FAA standards as U.S. crews."
He called Norwegian Air's corporate structure "a shell game, designed to work around the U.S./EU Open Skies agreement" and said the DOT "needs to ensure there is a level playing field."
Meanwhile, ALPA called Norwegian Air International "an underhanded business scheme that puts tens of thousands of U.S. airline jobs at risk" and said it "registers its planes in Ireland explicitly to avoid Norway's employment laws. It hires its pilots in Singapore and bases its crews in Thailand for the same reason."
Norwegian Air spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen strongly challenged the ALPA campaign.
"ALPA continues its efforts to publish slanderous allegations about a company they obviously know nothing about," Sandaker-Nielsen said. "Our crews have better wages and benefits than their U.S. counterparts ... The truth is that ALPA is afraid of competition.
"We will continue to offer high quality trans-Atlantic fares on our Boeing (BA) - Get Boeing Company Report Dreamliner's regardless of what obsolete arguments ALPA continues to throw our way," he said.
Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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