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Norse Atlantic Agrees to Talks With Flight Attendant Union to Head Off DOT Probe

Norse Atlantic Agrees to Talks With Flight Attendant Union to Head Off DOT Probe

Photo Credit: Norwegian

Norse Atlantic Airways, a new Oslo-based low-cost long-haul airline that is widely seen as the successor of Norwegian Air, has agreed to talks with the powerful Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) after a prominent lawmaker called on the Biden administration and Department of Transport (DOT) to refuse the airline’s application to operate transatlantic flights.

The new airline plans to launch by December 2021 with initial plans to connect destinations like Miami, Los Angeles and New York City with London, Paris and Oslo.

Norse Atlantic was dreamt up just months after Norwegian announced it would abandon the long-haul market and has already secured the rights to use some of Norwegian’s second-hand Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Norse Atlantic is the brainchild of Bjørn Tore Larsen – a shipping entrepreneur who also founded the aviation staff outsourcing company OSM Aviation which supplied Norwegian with contract staff. Other key investors include Norwegian founder Bjørn Kjos and his business partner Bjørn Kise.

Despite the obvious connections and parallels with Norwegian, Larsen insists that Norse Atlantic is a brand new airline “with no ties to existing or previous airlines”. The airline’s management team will, however, have learnt plenty about operating a low-cost long-haul airline in the U.S. from their time at Norwegian.

One of those most contentious issues over Norwegian’s entry into the U.S. market was its decision to use foreign contract flight attendants employed through a third-party company that was based in countries with favourable labor terms for the airline.

Norwegian eventually agreed to directly employ U.S.-based flight attendants but only after facing stiff opposition from union leaders and some lawmakers. Norse Atlantic clearly doesn’t want to relive the same experience as Norwegian.

“While we have an opportunity to offer low-cost, long-haul service for customers with some of the aircraft made available following Norwegian’s exit from the market, Norse will approach labor relations differently from the start,” Larsen commented on Monday.

“A low-cost operation doesn’t mean workers shouldn’t have good jobs at the company. We will directly employ the staff of Norse and respect the rights of our employees to collectively bargain,” he continued.

Larsen was speaking after coming to an agreement with America’s ‘Most Powerful Flight Attendant’ and President of AFA, Sara Nelson to start negotiations by the end of this month on a flight attendant contract.

Nelson described initial discussions with Norse Atlantic as “encouraging” and said she hoped to reach an agreement on a legally binding contract that “respect labor rights in the U.S. and Europe as intended by the E.U.–U.S. Open Skies Agreement”.

In March, Rep Peter DeFazio and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee called on the Biden administration to deny Norse Atlantic access to the United States, saying the White House should “correct the error of 2016” (when Norwegian was issued an air operators certificate).

Norse Atlantic has already secured the rights to nine ex-Norwegian aircraft and deals on a further three used Dreamliners are close to being signed.

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