December 17, 2014
The Honorable Anthony Foxx
Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Secretary Foxx:
My purpose in writing is to express the opposition of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) to the Norwegian Air International (NIA) application for a foreign air carrier permit. As the sole representative of the aircraft maintenance technicians of Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines, we adamantly oppose this effort to circumvent U.S. law as well as the rules and protocols of the US-EU Open Skies Agreement – it should be soundly rejected.
It is important to note that our organization has never objected to the foreign air carrier permit applications of any foreign air carriers in the past. In fact, we’ve never protested Norwegian Air Shuttle’s operations in and out of the United States. Competition is not only good for consumers, but is necessary for a healthy and vibrant aviation industry. But, when one carrier hatches a scheme to evade the rules that have protected consumers and the industry, which every other carrier throughout the industry must follow, then we are obligated to raise a red flag. Special treatment has no place in the international marketplace.
The scheme proposes to award NAI with a special exemption to operate outside of the existing rules that every other carrier, foreign or domestic, have to abide by. Article 17 of the Open Skies Agreement clearly states that a country cannot use the trade agreement as a mechanism for circumventing its host-nation labor obligations; however, the first thing that NAI would do if granted a permit from DOT would be to establish a precedent that breaks the rules of Article 17. U.S. law, specifically 49 U.S.C. §§ 40101(a), also outlines several factors that the DOT must consider to find an application to be in public interest. These factors mandate that the competitive position of US carriers must be at least equal to that of the foreign carrier and that fair wages and working conditions must be encouraged. The NAI scheme clearly violates these criteria.
Our opposition isn't merely knee-jerk protectionism. We are working to ensure that the US-EU Open Skies Agreement is adhered to. The company’s transparent plot amounts to nothing more than an international regulatory earmark. What good are trade agreements if the rules they outline do not apply to all parties? US law and rules that pertain to every other US & EU air carrier operating between the two should be followed by NAI – Period.
Our hope is that you will recognize the arguments that we’ve made above, which echo the opposition of our industry and labor colleagues both domestically and within the European Union, and send NAI back to the drawing board to craft a business plan that doesn't undermine established international rules and obligations.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We look forward to working with you on this and other important issues facing the men and women of AMFA.
On the Behalf of the AMFA National Executive Council,