The holiday travel season got off to a miserable start for several thousand passengers over the weekend when Norwegian Air cancelled 30 flights due to a lack of aircraft and crews.
According to industry magazine Check In, thousands of passengers received only a last-minute text message saying that their flights were cancelled and that they would have to buy a ticket on another airline if they wanted to get away as planned.
Too much overtime
The cancellations were caused by a dispute between Norwegian Air and its pilots. Recently, an overtime agreement between the company and the pilot’s union expired, and regular flights scheduled with pilots working overtime had to be cancelled.
In order to prevent more cancellations, Norwegian sent an email to all pilots saying that anyone willing to give up days off would be paid double overtime. Since pilots already receive double pay for working overtime, the double/double overtime adds up to quadruple pay. The Norwegian Pilot’s Union was critical of the move.
“This is proof that Norwegian has too few pilots to keep operations running, and that they actually plan regular operations using overtime instead of hiring enough pilots,” union leader Halvor Vatnar told the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet.
Norwegian said that it is doing all it can to help passengers and find pilots, but is having difficulty at the start of the high travel season.
“It’s high season and we do have a pilot shortage,” Danish press contact Astrid Mannion told Check In.
“Some customers have experienced getting a text message that their flight is cancelled a few hours before departure.”
The company also said that it has tried to purchase tickets for stranded passengers on other airlines to send them on their way.
“It is clear that we have an obligation to help our passengers,” said Mannion.
“But it is peak season and many flights are sold out so the alternatives we can offer are not as good as we would like.”