Pilots query airline pledge to use only US and EU crew

Dublin-based Norwegian Air International vow followed photos of Asian crew on flight

Pilots' unions have questioned Norwegian Air International's (NAI) promise to use only United States and European Union crews on transatlantic flights after its parent group published photos showing Asian personnel working on a Las Vegas service.

Dublin-based NAI has pledged that it will use only EU and US crews on transatlantic flights to counter claims by unions that its parent wants to use the Irish subsidiary to avoid labour laws by hiring staff through Asian agencies, whose contracts offer less protection than those governed by European regulations.

However, the European Cockpit Association (ECA) and its affiliate, the Irish Airline Pilots' Association (IALPA), challenged the commitment after Norwegian Air Shuttle published a picture on social media of the staff on its Oslo-Las Vegas flight showing that the cabin crew were Asian.

IALPA general secretary Capt Evan Cullen said the unions were not concerned about crews' citizenship or nationality, but the jurisdictions in which their contracts were issued.


His union and the ECA want NAI to employ crew on its proposed transatlantic flights, including those it is planning from Cork and Shannon to Boston, under contracts governed by Norwegian, EU or US law.

‘Social dumping’

Capt Cullen said NAI chief executive Tore Jenssen had told him the airline would be using crew hired on Asian contracts. "I believe that the Irish company will be used as a flag of convenience for social dumping," he added.

A Norwegian spokesman pointed out that the group’s existing transatlantic flights are operated by Norwegian Air Shuttle, which is separate to the Irish subsidiary NAI, the airline seeking permission from US authorities to fly from Cork and Shannon to Boston.

"NAI does not have a single Asian-based crew member or pilot and we have committed in writing to the US department of transportation that only US- and EU-based crew will be used on the proposed NAI transatlantic routes," he said. The group's chief executive, Bjorn Kjos, has said all NAI crew will be employed under Irish law.

However, Capt Cullen argued that airlines within the same group frequently use each other’s planes and crew. “They [Norwegian] have the same aircraft, the same livery, the same everything. When they say they are completely separate, that is not the reality,” he said.

Concerns that Norwegian intended using NAI to skirt labour laws prompted aviation unions and the group’s rivals on both sides of the Atlantic to oppose the airline’s application to the US for a permit allowing it to fly there.

Brussels says the US has breached an aviation treaty with the EU by delaying for more than two years in granting the permit and wants to refer the issue to arbitration.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas