Norwegian air plans to hire U.S. pilots for Florida 787 push

Bloomberg

Norwegian Air Shuttle, the focus of protests by U.S. carriers and unions over labor practices, plans to recruit and hire commercial airline pilots in the country as the carrier expands flights out of Florida.

Norwegian, supported by a fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, will be the only European airline to hire U.S.-based pilots, according to a statement Monday from the Fornebu, Norway-based carrier. With bases in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and New York, the company brought on U.S. flight attendants starting in 2013 and plans to have more than 500 by the end of this year.

The airline has been expanding long-haul routes linking Europe with North America, and its top executive said in a recent interview that the company is in talks for possible routes to Argentina. The carrier, once limited to operating low-cost European flights, plans a fleet of 42 Dreamliners by 2020 and will begin taking delivery of the long-range version of Airbus Group’s A321 jetliner in 2019.

“Hiring American pilots for our long-haul operation has been one of Norwegian’s goals since launching our trans-Atlantic service three years ago, and we are thrilled that we are finally able to do so,” Asgeir Nyseth, chief operating officer, said in the statement.

The airline plans to add more routes from the U.S. this year and in 2017. It now operates 44, including including 37 to Europe and seven to the French Caribbean, has plans to add routes during the rest of 2016 and in 2017. It also may add more crew bases in the country.

Norwegian may hire as many as 100 pilots in the U.S. “just to start,” Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Kjos said in an Oct. 8 interview, and will take on more for a Fort Lauderdale base if its able to add flights.

Some U.S. unions and airlines have objected to Norwegian’s application to broaden operations here using an Irish subsidiary, arguing that the arrangement would give them an unfair competitive advantage by circumventing labor-protection laws.

Norwegian requires a U.S. applicant to hold a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly in airline cockpits. Prospective pilots also must have medical clearance and 6,000 hours of flight time, including 1,000 hours on a wide-body or narrow-body jet on long-haul routes. Norwegian will pay to have pilot certificates converted from one issued by the FAA to a license based on the European Aviation Safety Agency.

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