Near bankrupt low-cost airline Norwegian has told over a thousand laid-off employees that it can’t afford to pay them their final wages or other redundancy payments but that it will let them keep their uniforms and branded cabin bags as a “keepsake” of their time with the airline.
Around 1,100 pilots and cabin crew based at London Gatwick airport will be laid-off after Norwegian decided to throw in the towel on its long-haul business. Other long-haul bases in Paris, Rome and Barcelona, as well as in the United States will also be closed as a result of the decision and with the loss of hundreds of more jobs.
Unions who represent British workers say Norwegian’s employees have been “thrown under the bus” after liquidators acting on behalf of the airline told them it couldn’t afford to pay them their owed wages, as well as notice pay, holiday pay and pension contributions.
What they’ll be left is a uniform that they haven’t had a chance to wear since April 2020 when Norwegian grounded its entire long-haul fleet in response to the Covid pandemic. Last month, the Oslo-based airline said it had decided to exit the long-haul business for good in order to win a second state bailout from the Norwegian government.
Norwegian’s new business plan will see the airline return to its roots as a nordic short-haul business operating up to 70 single-aisle Boeing 737 jets. Its entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be sold or returned to lessors as part of the carrier’s dramatic downsizing.
When Norwegian entered the long-haul market in 2013 it introduced a special uniform just for its Dreamliner crew. The uniform, designed by the now-defunct brand Moods of Norway, stood out from the crowd with a bold tartan jacket worn by men and a Chanel lookalike women’s uniform.
That uniform was, however, retired in 2019 as part of a major cost-cutting exercise which saw Norwegian introduce a unified but considerably less interesting look across long and short-haul crew.
As well as the uniform, crew have also been told they can keep their branded Travelpro cabin bags.
Employees are furious, however, that the company says it can’t afford to pay them despite recent reassurances that they would receive redundancy payments if the company went bankrupt.
Unions are also demanding answers about the whereabouts of over £10 million that was meant to be paid to the British subsidiary last year from another part of the Norwegian group of companies but failed to materialise.
Staffers have been told they must claim their owed wages from a special government scheme as the expense of taxpayers but the process could take weeks or even months for claims to be approved.
Norwegian has entered a form of bankruptcy protection in Ireland called examinership to keep debt collectors at bay while it works on winning more financial support from investors and shareholders.
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.