Back in 1993, Norwegian Air Shuttle started life as a small regional wet lease airline using ageing Fokker F-50s aircraft and connecting tiny airports along the west coast of Norway. How times have changed – since then, Norwegian has become the third largest low-cost airline in the world, disrupting traditional markets and challenging legacy airlines, as well as becoming the most awarded low-cost airline in the world in the past two years.
Its upstart, maverick attitude has gained it a loyal fanbase – passengers love the low-fares, brand new airplanes and friendly service from its 6000+ serving flight attendants. But Norwegian hasn’t been welcomed by everyone.
In 2013, Norwegian started its first transatlantic services, connecting North America and Europe. Legacy U.S. carriers and the unions who represent their workers cried foul. They claimed Norwegian was operating a “flag of convenience” model.
Bob Ross, the President of APFA, the biggest flight attendant union in the U.S. said the practices of airlines like Norwegian would “undercut safety and fair labor standards for US workers.” A decision by the U.S. Department of Transport to award Norwegian’s Irish subsidiary a foreign air carrier permit would lead to the “destruction of the US aviation industry” he claimed.
Ross and other powerful figures in the U.S. aviation industry say Norwegian is hiring foreign flight attendants who earn less and have fewer rights than American workers. How can legacy U.S. airlines possibly compete without a level playing field they ask?
Here’s the truth about working for Norwegian in the U.S.
But what Ross and others won’t tell you, is that Norwegian already employs 600 U.S.-based flight attendants and pilots. In fact, Norwegian actually has more U.S.-based cabin crew than any other foreign airline and is the only foreign airline hiring American pilots to be based in the U.S. And they have just as many rights as other U.S. workers – earlier this year, Norwegian flight attendants won the right to be represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (by the way, Delta’s flight attendants are still fighting for that right).
Norwegian is even planning to hire many more American flight attendant’s in the future. In fact, at the time of publication, Norwegian is recruiting flight attendants to join its bases in Los Angeles and Providence, R.I.. Those lucky enough to pass the recruitment process will benefit from a better than average salary and a lot of opportunities for progression.
Still not convinced? We had the opportunity to speak with a member of Norwegian’s U.S.-based cabin crew. Vivi Cheri started her flying career with legacy carrier, Continental before going on to work for United following the merger of the two airlines.
But the 18-year veteran of the industry decided to make the leap to Norwegian just over a year ago. Vivi originally joined Norwegian’s team in New York JFK before transferring to Fort Lauderdale.
Here’s what Vivi has to say about working for Norwegian.
PYOK: What do you most enjoy about working for Norwegian?
Vivi: It’s very exciting to work for an airline that is growing at record-speed with the most modern fleet of Boeing aircraft including the Boeing 737 MAX and Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
PYOK: So what are the benefits of working for Norwegian? What’s the company culture like?
At Norwegian, even though I am based in Fort Lauderdale, I have the opportunity to fly with our crew worldwide. One day I may fly with our London base and the next with our Thai base. This is the ‘One Norwegian’ culture. We are one big happy Flying family.
PYOK: Sounds Good! What’s the flipside like? What’s the hardest part of your job?
The hardest part of my job is maintaining a healthy diet with all of these delicious new cultural food options I get to experience!
PYOK: Haha! We can relate to that. Norwegian seem to be launching new routes all the time. Which one is your favourite?
My favourite destination is Rome, Italy because I am obsessed with the FOOD, wine, and history! This city never gets old!
PYOK: What was the recruitment process like? We hear it’s a really intensive process?
There is never a dull moment when it comes to the recruitment process & training at Norwegian. We’ve got it all, group activities, one-on-one interviews with several different work groups, and the best part, the swimming!
PYOK: Sounds like a challenge! What advice would you give candidates who want to become a flight attendant with Norwegian?
– be yourself and let your unique personality shine through
– practice those pool laps
PYOK: So you really do need to be a good swimmer! Some people claim Norwegian will undercut existing safety standards. How important is the safety element of your job?
Safety is the number one priority or should be with any airline. I find at Norwegian we go beyond safety equipment checks with our pre-flight briefings. Procedures are constantly being reviewed and kept fresh with our monthly briefing topics that are discussed.
To find out more about career opportunities at Norwegian, including U.S.-based cabin crew and pilots, visit the official Norwegian careers website here.