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Whether it is under duress or not, Norwegian Air is bringing some pilot and other crew member jobs to the U.S. How this impacts the airline’s low-cost, long-haul model remains to be seen.
Faced with pilot and other labor opposition in the U.S. to its employment practices and foreign air carrier permit application, Norwegian Air International is opening crew bases in New York and Fort Lauderdale, and has hired 170 American crew members, the airline says.
Norwegian Air, which began long-haul service between Thailand and the U.S. and Europe in 2013, and plans on flying 14 routes between Europe and the U.S. this year, says it will have 300 American crew members on the payroll in 2014, and it is encouraging American pilots to submit job applications.
“We also encourage American pilots to come work for us,” says Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos. “To do so, they will need an EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) license.”
Norwegian, which flies the problematic Boeing 787 Dreamliner and has orders for 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, claims it “is the first European carrier to establish crew bases in the United States and to offer several hundred jobs to American crew.”
Its hiring policy, however, may not be entirely magnanimous. The U.S. Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) and other pilot and labor groups filed objections to Norwegian’s foreign air carrier permit application, arguing that the airline was seeking to circumvent U.S. aviation law and the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement by using pilot contractors subject to Singapore laws.
Norwegian says about its hiring policy of Americans that “wages and conditions are locally highly competitive and follow U.S. laws and regulations regarding Social Security, taxes, etc.”
ALPA is taking a wait and see attitude toward Norwegian’s new stance.
“While NAI (Norwegian Air International) has now said it plans to open crew bases in the U.S. and to hire some U.S. cabin crew, NAI has not revealed in the DOT proceeding how these crew will be hired and what their terms of employment will be,” ALPA says. “When NAI does place that information in the DOT docket, ALPA will consider it and respond as appropriate.”