American Pilots Aren't Happy About The Rapid Growth Of Norway's Big Budget Airline

Norwegian Dreamliner 787


This week, Norwegian, the third largest budget airline in Europe, expanded its reach into the U.S. market with a new route from New York to Bergen, "the gateway to the fjords of Norway."

The 20-year-old carrier is growing rapidly. It carried 16% more passengers this November than it did in November 2012, and it's doing an impressive job of matching that growth with new plane purchases.

Its current fleet includes 80 planes, and it is waiting on the deliveries of nearly 300 new ones.Advertisement

It wasn't until this May that Norwegian began flying from Scandinavia to Asia and the U.S. Now, it offers service to 39 countries, including Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and just about all of Europe.

But not everyone is happy with the growth of the airline, which was named the Best Low Cost Airline in Europe for 2013 by Skytrax, a leading airline reviewer. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which represents nearly 50,000 pilots in the U.S. and Canada, has called on the U.S. Department of Transportation to "immediately reject" Norwegian's foreign carrier permit application.

ALPA contends that Norwegian uses its base in Singapore to hire flight crews under local law, allowing lower wages and worse working conditions - making the airline more cost-efficient and competitive.

Yet the carrier flies between Europe and the U.S. thanks to the EU-U.S. Open Skies Agreement, which allows airlines based in either place to fly between the two without restrictions.

In response to the complaint, a spokesperson for the carrier told us in an email they "suggest that ALPA obtains some facts about Norwegian, our operation and strategy before presenting false statements about a company they obviously don't know much about." Norwegian, she added, "offer[s] competitive wages and conditions to all pilots, whether based in or outside Europe," and long-haul pilots operating out of Bangkok "all receive highly competitive, international wages and conditions."Advertisement

So far, it looks like ALPA's complaints are falling on deaf ears, and Norwegian will keep growing. This week, it announced it is leasing two new Boeing Dreamliner 787-9 jets from New York-based MG Aviation.

Here's Norwegian's long-haul route map:

norwegian long-haul flight map route