Low-cost airline Norwegian has abandoned a complex crewing structure that saw it contract the services of over 3,000 pilots and cabin crew through a third-party subsidiary company. In effect, pilots and cabin crew will now be directly employed by the airline rather than by a dedicated crew management company which critics claimed was deliberately created to lower costs for the airline and help them avoid labour issues.
“It is a big and important strategic step on the way for the New Norwegian that we now take over the entire and full responsibility for the companies where we have our flying staff employed,” commented Norwegian’s chief executive Jacob Schram on today’s news.
The change in employment will affect pilots and cabin crew based in Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States who were all previously employed by crew resource management company OSM Aviation.
Flight crew employed by OSM Aviation, itself part-owned by Norwegian, were only allowed to work for Norwegian and work practices, schedules and standards were dictated by the airline. Wages and disciplinary matters were, however, handled by OSM Aviation.
“Having direct communication with our own staff is absolutely crucial to building New Norwegian,” Schram continued. “We have been in a constructive dialogue with the pilots’ unions in England, Spain and the USA and I hope and expect that this dialogue will continue in the same direction in the future”.
The relationship between Norwegian and OSM Aviation faced opposition in the United States where the airline attempted to block flight attendants from forming a union. The airline had argued that because OSM Aviation was their employer, the Railway Labor Act which gives U.S.-based flight attendants union rights didn’t actually apply to them.
The National Mediation Board dismissed that argument in 2016, finding that Norwegian had enough control over OSM Aviation and its employees to bring them under the jurisdiction of the RLA.
“An air carrier cannot subcontract out every essential function, including as here, those performed by employees manning the aircraft, and attempt to avoid its legal obligation by stating that none of the companies providing what collectively amounts to the totality of the air operations are air carriers,” the April 2016 judgment explained in its decision against Norwegian.
While pilots and cabin crew will now be directly employed by Norwegian, that doesn’t mean there might be jobs available for them. Until air traffic picks up again, Norwegian noted that employees may remain laid-off for some time and that redundancy rules in their country will remain in effect.
Flight crew based in Norway, France and Italy are already directly employed by Norwegian.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.