Norwegian uses 1st anniversary of US flights to set operational record straight

Norwegian has celebrated the first anniversary of services to the United States to respond to critiicism of the way it has set up the operation of its Norwegian Air International subsidiary which carries out the flights.

The airline said it has created hundreds of new jobs in the air as well as thousands on the ground in the travel- and tourism-related industries. The carrier added that it has been very well received by the travelling public and that high-profile politicians, tourism authorities and local governments have also given their support.

“Unfortunately the labour unions and US airlines are continuing to do everything they can to block the competition,” Norwegian declared.

Norwegian stated that it believes competition on intercontinental flights is long overdue. Flights between the US and Europe have traditionally been way too expensive, it said. “Why should a flight between New York and Europe cost three times as much as a flight between New York and Los Angeles when the flight to Europe is only about an hour longer, sometimes even less?” the airline queried. “That’s why Norwegian launched record low fares in May last year with industry-leading non-stop service on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner between the U.S. and Scandinavia.

“Passengers are thrilled about the ability to fly affordably and comfortably on the company’s non-stop service from New York; Fort Lauderdale; Orlando; Los Angeles and San Francisco to Europe. Competitors and the unions, on the other hand, are using foul play trying to stop Norwegian,” argued the company.

According to Norwegian, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), other labour unions and several US airlines have over the past few months made “a number of false and misleading allegations about Norwegian in the media, to the Department of Transportation (DoT) and to members of Congress. This is a frantic attempt at blocking competition, consequently preventing the American people access to affordable airfares to Europe and blocking the creation of new jobs in America”.

Norwegian added to its release a brief Q&A which it said responds to some of the most serious accusations. reprints it here in full so that all concerned can draw their own conclusions.

Accusation #1: Norwegian has established its subsidiary Norwegian Air International (NAI) in Ireland as a “Flag of convenience” and to circumvent the labour laws of Norway and the US labour laws.
Response #1: Absolutely not. Norwegian has established its long-haul company in Dublin for several reasons. The main reason is access to future traffic rights to and from the EU (Norway is not a member of the EU). Norwegian has more than 260 aircraft on order and the route network will expand rapidly in the years to come. Another important reason for choosing Ireland, and not another country within the EU (though several other European countries – including the UK and Sweden – were considered), is because Ireland has decided to fully adapt the Cape Town Convention, which provides Norwegian with better financing conditions. Furthermore, Norwegian’s establishment in Ireland does not affect export guarantees in connection with our financing. As well as offering one of the highest ranked civil aviation authorities in the world, Ireland is also a considerable cluster for the aviation industry; major leasing companies that Norwegian co-operates with have offices in Dublin.

It is important to stress that Ireland was not chosen because the country has specific rules and regulations that allow the use of American or Asian crew, like some politicians and unions have claimed. The fact is that Norwegian could have based its long-haul company in any other European country and still used American and Asian crew, the way several other European airlines have been operating for years.

Norwegian’s employees in the US follow US labour laws, the company’s employees in Norway follow Norwegian labour laws and employees in the UK follow UK labour lows, etc. The airline fully complies with European safety standards (EASA) and its crews are trained according to EU standards and the company’s own additional training programmes. Ireland, where the long-haul company is located, has one of the highest ranked civil aviation authorities in the world.

Accusation #2: Norwegian is offering substandard working conditions.
Response #2: Norwegian always follows the rules and regulations in all the markets we operate, offering competitive wages and conditions. We assume that our US competitors do the same when hiring crews in, for instance, South America.

Norwegian has already employed more than 300 American cabin crew members in Fort Lauderdale and New York, and is currently recruiting New York-based pilots for its 787 Dreamliner operation. Norwegian received almost 6,000 applicants for its 300 cabin crew positions. The company’s American employees say that their wages and benefits are superior to those of their counterparts at US airlines. Pilots flying intercontinentally have a global pay scale, which means that a long-haul pilot based in Norway makes about the same as a long-haul pilot based in Asia or the US.

Accusation #3: Norwegian’s business model compromises safety
Response #3: Norwegian has been running a safe airline operation since 1993 with no registered accidents or major incidents. Safety has always been the company’s number one priority. The company fully complies with European safety standards (EASA) and its crews are trained according to EU standards and the company’s own additional training programmes. Ireland, where the long-haul company is located, has one of the highest ranked civil aviation authorities in the world.

Accusation #4: Norwegian is government-sponsored
Response #4: Norwegian is 100% privately owned and has never received any government subsidies.

Accusation #5: Norwegian’s Singapore company is set up to legalise sub-standard pilot conditions
Response #5: Norwegian’s Singapore company is the primary pilot recruitment vehicle in Asia. Singapore offers a business friendly environment and its government has extensive experience co-operating with western companies. As our operation grows, we will establish more pilot bases. We are currently recruiting in New York and are also considering London.

Accusation #6: Norwegian is union hostile
Response #6: No. A majority of Norwegian’s pilots and cabin crew members in Scandinavia are union members. Technicians and administrative employees are also union members.

Accusation #7: Norwegian doesn’t comply with the Open Skies Agreement
Response #7: Incorrect. Norwegian meets all the legal and regulatory requirements in the Open Skies Agreement between the US and the EU.

The legacy carriers did everything in their power to stop low-cost carriers like Southwest Airlines to enter the domestic skies. Now history is repeating itself as an airline from Norway is taking on the big guys in order to offer everyone affordable flights across the Atlantic. If the authorities listen to the legacy carriers and the unions, the losers will be customers who will be left with no other option than airlines that offer astronomic fares and poor inflight service. The American people deserve to have a choice.

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