A new low-cost, long-haul airline that plans to ply tickets on transatlantic routes between the United States and Europe has just cleared a major hurdle with America’s largest flight attendant union coming out in support of the company and its management team on Thursday.
Norse Atlantic Airways plans to start operations later this year using second hand Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s that once belonged to fellow low-cost airline Norwegian before the Oslo-based carrier abandoned its long-haul ambitions in order to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new airline has faced the threat of being barred from entering the U.S. market over the alleged cut-throat behavior of Norwegian towards labor relations and in particular accusations that the carrier tried to class flight attendants as contractors in order to artificially drive down costs.
But although the management team behind Norse Atlantic had quite a few connections with Norwegian, the upstart is at pains to point out that it has nothing to do with Norwegian and that while Norse will share a very similar business plan, its treatment of workers will be a world apart.
On Thursday, Norse Atlantic and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) announced they had reached a tentative pre-hire agreement which will include a full contract, industry-leading pay and job protections, healthcare, and a 401k, along with other benefits.
In contrast, U.S.-based Norwegian flight attendants had to fight for their right to be represented by a union only for the pandemic to ground the airline just months later.
“This is what respect for workers and our unions looks like,” commented AFA president Sara Nelson. “We are proud to provide a path of return to work for AFA members who flew in a similar long-haul, low-cost operation.”
“Those Flight Attendants organized and successfully beat back misguided efforts by a different management to misclassify Flight Attendants as contractors. But, as soon as they won the fight and a contract the airline ceased operations in March 2020,” Nelson explained.
“Norse management is taking a refreshing approach to labor relations and demonstrating that the success of a business starts with good jobs. We are thrilled to announce this historic agreement and we look forward to getting people to work as soon as possible.”
Norse Atlantic’s founder Bjørn Tore Larsen (who also started the airline recruitment company OSM Aviation) vowed that his airline’s employees wouldn’t be subsidizing the cost of tickets. “We strongly believe building an airline with respect for the people who work for Norse is the best way to ensure success,” Larsen said on Thursday.
OSM Aviation previously supplied workers, including flight attendants and pilots, to Norwegian.
If Norse Atlantic gets Department of Transportation (DOT) approval to start flights to the United States, Larsen hopes to initially connect Miami, Los Angeles and New York City with London, Paris and Oslo.
As many as 700 U.S. flight attendants could be hired and the airline is already recruiting flight attendants on the other side of the Atlantic.
The airline does, however, still face some opposition including from the Air Line Pilots Association which has questions about Norse Atlantic’s business model and could try to scupper Larsen’s plans.
“We will vigorously oppose Norse’s attempt to obtain Department of Transportation approval to operate into the United States if its ‘brand new’ airline is just another bait-and-switch flag-of-convenience scheme,” commented ALPA president Joe DePete earlier this month.
“We are confident that this administration will vigorously enforce our trade agreements, defend collective bargaining rights, and protect American jobs.”
Photo Credit: 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.