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World’s largest pilot union threatens Norse Atlantic over labour law workarounds

written by Hannah Dowling | May 6, 2021

New transatlantic airline Norse Atlantic, co-founded by an ex-Norwegian Air founder, will lease 12 ex-Norwegian Dreamliners

The world’s largest pilot’s union, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), has joined in calls against new Norwegian airline Norse Atlantic using tactics to secure cheaper labour costs from other countries.

According to the ALPA, it will “vigorously oppose” Norse Atlantic’s attempt to secure US Department of Transportation permits to perform budget transatlantic routes, should the airline use “bait and switch” tactics to undermine local labour laws.

“I am highly skeptical of the latest business venture to be announced by Norse’s executives, who have spent years trying to game the system, skirt rigorous safety rules, and undermine workers’ rights,” said Captain Joe DePete, president of the ALPA International.

“ALPA remains strongly opposed to any efforts that erode fair labor standards and seek to gain a competitive advantage by dodging established international agreements.”

DePete continued: “As we have for years, ALPA rejects any business model that plays one country’s regulatory and safety standards off another in order to evade labor rights, as these practices endanger safety and put US jobs at risk.

“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, and we are confident that this administration will vigorously enforce our trade agreements, defend collective bargaining rights, and protect American jobs.”

In March this year, World of Aviation reported that Bjorn Kjos, the founder and ex-CEO of troubled carrier Norwegian Air, has taken another shot at the budget trans-Atlantic market, in partnership with co-founder of OSM Aviation Bjorn Tore Larsen.


Together, the two have launched Norse Atlantic, in order to cash in on Norwegian Air’s exit from its famed long-haul budget trans-Atlantic routes.

The aviation veterans hope to begin operations by the end of this year, securing 12 ex-Norwegian Dreamliners to connect major US hubs, such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami, to European hotspots, including London, Paris and Oslo.

Shortly after Norse Atlantic applied for the necessary permits from the DOT, Representative Peter DeFazio, the chairman of the US House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urged the Biden administration to deny the airline’s request.

DeFazio argued that the new airline was “Norwegian in name only” and that the carrier “established itself in Ireland under a flag of convenience to avoid Norway’s strong labour protections”.

Notably, this is the same tactic once used before by Kjos for Norwegian Air, now undergoing bankruptcy proceedings in both Ireland and Norway.

In his call to deny the foreign air permit to Norse Atlantic, DeFazio argued that the Department of Transportation “imprudently issued” the same permit to Norwegian Air in 2016.

That decision ultimately resulted in a years-long fare war between US carriers and Norwegian over affordable routes between the US and Europe.

Kjos’ business partner Larsen continues to insist that Norse Atlantic has “no ties to existing or previous airlines”.

Larsen said Norse Atlantic will directly employ workers and “respect the rights of our employees to collectively bargain”.

Negotiations with the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) are set to get underway later this month, although Larsen hasn’t said whether his new airline plans to hire US-based pilots too.


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