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US judges back Norwegian in key battle

A panel of judges has approved a Department of Transportation decision, against a challenge from unions.

Judges in the US have ruled against unions and supported the approval given to Norwegian to fly to the country, USA Today reports.

Four US airline unions representing 135,000 employees had challenged the Department of Transportation decision, saying Norwegian’s unusual corporate structure avoided US labour laws.

But a federal appeals panel of three judges at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision, which was made in December 2016 following three years of often stormy debate.

The panel ruled that, if an airline satisfies the requirements, the rejection of an application cannot be allowed under federal or international law.

Low-cost labour?
Unions had protested that Norwegian creates unfair competition because as a low-cost carrier it hires international crews for lower wages. But the airline responded that it buys Boeing aircraft and hires US workers.

The unions – the Air Line Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the Allied Pilots Association and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association – compare Norwegian to a flag-of-convenience shipping company. Norwegian’s subsidiary for US flights is based in Ireland, despite having no headquarters there.

The unions show no sign of backing down.

“While we are disappointed, ALPA is no less determined in calling for the United States to enforce its trade agreements and ensure US workers have a fair opportunity to compete internationally,” said Captain Tim Canoll, the union’s president.

“We will work with lawmakers to build on the already strong congressional support for ensuring foreign airlines comply with US trade deals and review this court decision and take appropriate action to defend U.S. workers’ jobs.”

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