Pilots have hit out at the British subsidiary of the low-cost airline Norwegian after liquidators told employees on Monday that the business didn’t have enough money to pay them their owed salaries, as well as holiday and notice pay. On January 14, Norwegian said it would shut down its long-haul operation, including its British subsidiary, resulting in the loss of at least 1,100 Gatwick-based crew.
But instead of receiving their owed wages from the airline, pilots and cabin crew who are now going to be made redundant have been told that they will need to apply for their missing wages from a special government fund. The process is lengthy and claims could take weeks or even months to be processed.
“Pilots are demanding answers about why they have been left with absolutely nothing,” slammed a statement from the BALPA pilots union on Tuesday. “The incredibly complex corporate structure is very difficult to unpick.”
“The airline continues in Norway and has received significant government bailouts there, and yet the whole company is being liquidated in the UK and its employees left high and dry,” the statement continued.
Of particular concern to the union is £10.5 million in funding that had been promised to the British subsidiary but appears to have gone missing. BALPA says the funds could easily have paid employees their owed wages and redundancy payouts.
KPMG, the company which is handling the liquidation of NAR UK as the British company is known, has promised an investigation to find out whether money is owed.
The $10.5 million in funding had allegedly been promised from a subsidiary known as NAR Invest but during a recent conference call, one of Norwegian’s current director’s said he didn’t even know about this subsidiary.
Norwegian’s corporate structure had been under intense scrutiny for years with critics claiming the airline deliberately set up subsidiaries in countries that were favourable for low tax rates and employee rights.
The airline has entered a form of bankruptcy protection using its Irish subsidiary while it works to secure additional funding from investors and a second state bailout from the Norwegian government. Oslo has agreed to lend the airline more money on the proviso that it gives up its long-haul network.
Norwegian will focus on its Nordic and European short-haul operation using a fleet of up to 70 single-aisle aircraft. The airline will be looking to offload its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners as part of the dramatic downsizing.
“Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible,” commented Norwegian chief executive Jacob Schram last month. “We do not expect customer demand in the long haul sector to recover in the near future, and our focus will be on developing our short-haul network as we emerge from the reorganisation process.”
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.