Traffic for low-fare airline Norwegian is now so high that it may surpass arch rival SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) as the biggest carrier at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, OSL. Norwegian continues to run into turbulence, though, with labour unions angry once again over a major reorganization of cabin personnel.
Norwegian is expected to land as the market leader at OSL later this year, given its major route expansion and corresponding passenger counts. Newspaper Aftenposten reported this week that Norwegian’s passenger count rose 10 percent last year to 8.8 million, compared to just 2 percent for SAS’ 9.1 million, and that the two largest carriers at OSL were separated by just 300,000 passengers.
The two dominate traffic at OSL, with the third-largest carrier, Lufthansa, reporting a 5 percent decline in traffic to 561,000. Next in line was Widerøe at 448,000, followed by KLM, British Airways and Turkish Airlines.
Norwegian, though, continues to be plagued by employee unrest, passenger complaints and sharp industry criticism over its new intercontinental service. Parat, the main union representing flight attendants, was furious this week over Norwegian’s announcement that it was transferring cabin crew into two new subsidiaries. Parat calls it a “divide and conquer” technique, while Norwegian responded that it’s part of a new structure aimed at allowing the airline to be more flexible and launch even more routes. Crew members’ pay, benefits and pension rights will be maintained, Norwegian claimed.
Labour organizations fear it’s ultimately a form of “union busting” and moves to keep employee costs low by enabling use of more foreign crews. Norwegian claims it’s merely trying to stay competitive and keep offering low fares.