Miami Air International (LL, Miami Int'l) has filed a motion with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) opposing an emergency exemption that would allow Nolinor Aviation (N5, Montréal Trudeau) to carry out relief flights to Puerto Rico.

The Canadian operator has been transporting emergency personnel and humanitarian aid to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of a January 7 earthquake, under a contract awarded by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). On January 8, the airline applied to the DOT for emergency exemption from cabotage (ninth freedom) restrictions given the fact that flights between the mainland US and Puerto Rico, a US territory, are considered domestic operations.

Nolinor Aviation was tentatively awarded the contract through January 15, 2020. It used three B737-200(M)s, C-GNLN (msn 23050), C-GNLK (msn 20836), and C-GNLW (msn 23130), to operate from Norfolk Int'l, VA to San Juan Luis Muñoz Marin, Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows.

"Grant of this application is in the public interest and necessary to avoid an unusual hardship. Grant of this application is also consistent with Department precedent. Foreign air carriers have been granted emergency exemption authority to carry passengers and cargo between US points when an emergency existed as a result of unusual circumstances not arising in the normal course of business," the Canadian cargo specialist said, further adding that its B737-200 combi aircraft were "uniquely tailored to meet FEMA's needs for this mission".

However, on January 10, Miami Air International objected to Nolinor Aviation's contract.

The US airline said the law allows granting emergency exemptions to foreign carriers only if there are no US operators able to accommodate the required traffic. It further argued that it had aircraft available to operate the flights and, consequently, requested that all flights not yet operated by Nolinor Aviation be reassigned to itself.

Since Miami Air's application, no FEMA-contracted flights have been operated to Puerto Rico.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, Miami Air does not currently operate freighter or combi aircraft. Its fleet includes six in-house B737-800s and three more wet-leased from TUI fly (Belgium) for the winter season.