New legislation in the USA aims to hunt down “flag of convenience” airlines, which base their operations in a country other than their own that have favourable labour laws and aviation standards, the Washington Post has reported.

Introduced by the House of Representatives on July 10, the bipartisan Fair and Open Skies Act would stop the United States from issuing permits to non-US airlines that may be undermining US labour and safety standards.

Although the bill originates in the surge of opposition by US unions, airlines, and politicians against Norwegian (DY, Oslo Gardermoen) in 2016 before its Irish subsidiary Norwegian Air International (D8, Dublin Int'l) finally secured permission to fly to the US at the end of that year, the new law would apply only to new Department of Transportation (DOT) applications. The DOT has said it dealt with 35 new Foreign Air Carrier Permit applications during 2018.

Despite being headquartered in Norway, Norwegian still operates under Irish law through its subsidiary, a practice which the United States argues gives it an unfair competitive advantage.

“Norwegian is based in Ireland because they have lax labour laws,” Peter DeFazio, a US Representative from the Democratic Party who is chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said. “This has become a plague and we need to bring it to an end, and this legislation would do that. We are not going to allow airlines to subvert labour laws.”

The Fair and Open Skies Act will prevent the DOT from issuing foreign carrier permits to airlines with flags of convenience schemes, he elaborated. Any new permit issued to a European airline will have to be consistent with the fair labour standards and competition requirements of the US-EU-Norway-Iceland Air Transport Agreement before being issued.