A few days ago we learned that the Oslo-based low-cost airline, Norwegian was planning on closing seven crew bases in Spain, Italy and the United States as part of a major cost-reduction programme. At the time, Norwegian’s commercial director Helga Bollmann Leknes said the airline would work to ensure that as few of its staff as possible were affected by the closures and promised to offer transfers to other bases including Oslo, Stockholm and Madrid as way well its long-haul Boeing 787 fleet.
At the same time, Norwegian was also working to reassure nervous passengers that the airline would honour travel plans that had already been booked. Weary consumers, who may well already be nervous after hearing rumours that the airline was on the brink of collapse just before New Year, now had to contend with the fact that their flights could once again be disrupted.
Norwegian has already come in for considerable (and perhaps deservedly so) criticism over its handling of 787 Dreamliner engines problems that saw it replacing brand new state-of-the-art planes with ageing wetlease aircraft over the course of last summer. Promising that the crew base closures would have “little or no effect” on already scheduled flights, the airline was keen to counter some media reports to reassure passengers that it would still be flying to popular holiday spots such as Mallorca and Thailand.
But with Norwegian downplaying the seriousness of the crew bases closures, two sources who claim to be familiar with the matter have told us that the airline is making all of its Fort Lauderdale and New York City area pilots redundant. The allegation by the two sources who wished not to be identified contradicts Norwegian’s statement on the base closures which claimed that the airline’s long-haul 787 Dreamliner operations were not being impacted by the closures.
Other pilots in the NYC area to be affected currently operate the airline’s Boeing 737MAX aircraft.
It’s understood that flight attendants at the Fort Lauderdale base will not be made redundant although there may be some job losses at both the Stewart (SWF) and Providence (PVD) crew bases.
Upwards of around 40-pilots have been informed they will be axed in what will be a major blow for Norwegian to build its U.S-based workforce and convince critics that it is not attempting to undercut American jobs with cheap overseas labor (the airline is currently the largest foreign airline employer of American flight attendants and pilots).
The pilots are not actually employed by Norwegian but instead by an employment agency called OSM Aviation which is part-owned by Norwegian. Some of the pilots may not be eligible to transfer to bases in Europe . It’s believed that many had been on full-pay without work because of delays in getting them fully certified.
A spokesperson for Norwegian told us: “Norwegian will be closing its cabin crew and pilot bases at both Providence’s TF Green Airport and Stewart International Airport later this year in line with the company’s focus on cost cutting and returning to profitability, as well as the pilot base in Fort Lauderdale.”
“Our focus and priority now is to take care of our employees and offer them transfer opportunities within the company to other bases. All existing routes to these three airports that are out for sale, will remain intact during that period. Norwegian might make adjustments to the winter 2019/20 season based on demand.”
Norwegian overtook British Airways to become the largest foreign airline to serve the New York City area last year with the airline carrying 1.67 million international passengers to and from three of the city’s airports. That success, however, has been dampened by recent reports that the airline is embarking on a huge cost-cutting programme that will aim to save around $350 million within the next 12-months.