There finally was some contact between the union representing striking pilots at Norwegian Air and the airline’s management. “Activity and dialogue” during the night suddenly raised hopes that the strike may soon be settled.
All of Norwegian’s flights in Scandinavia remained grounded on Thursday morning, disrupting the travel plans of more than 30,000 passengers for the second day in a row. Passengers were still being advised to consult Norwegian’s own website regarding the status of specific scheduled flights.
There were indications that some may start taking off again. Hans-Erik Skjæggerud, leader of the trade union federation Parat that encompasses the Norwegian Pilot Union, said on national radio Thursday morning that “there has been activity during the night” and that the “pilots are positive” that a “solution” can be found to end their strike.
Union apologized for false claims
Skjæggerud refused to detail the reasons for the sudden optimism after months of accusations hurled back and forth between the pilots and Norwegian management. But the icy relations at least seem to have melted a bit, and the union was also forced to apologize for having spread false claims that officials at Norwegian and crewing agency OSM Aviation had contacted individual striking pilots and tried to pressure them into new jobs with the agency instead of the airline. “I should have checked the facts better,” Arve Sigmundstad, communications chief for the labour organization Parat, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). OSM Aviation, run by the brother of Crown Princess Mette-Marit, Espen Høiby, had flatly denied any contact with pilots, as had Norwegian, and Parat admitted it had erred.
Its leaders seemed more conciliatory on Thursday. “We will continue discussions with the company today,” Skjæggerud told NRK. “We’ve had activity and dialog, we are talking.” A spokesman for Norwegian Air confirmed the contact between the two sides but wouldn’t reveal details of the issues being discussed either.
The contact comes after Norwegian Air’s embattled chief executive, Bjørn Kjos, held a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at which he flatly denied many of the claims made by the pilots since they went out on strike Saturday morning. Kjos denied there had been any plans to declare bankruptcy for the subsidiary where the pilots are employed, but he worried that the unions could force a bankruptcy if the strike continued. He also made it clear that the airline’s top priority was to transport its passengers.
School class defied the strike
At least one group of passengers, a school class from Ålesund that had worked for two years to raise funds for a study tour to Rome, was hopeful they’d reach their destination on Thursday. With their Norwegian flight to Oslo grounded, the students scrambled to charter a bus and drove through the night to get to Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen, from which the Rome flight was supposed to depart.
Even though the Norwegian teachers’ labour federation Unio had urged its members to boycott Norwegian, the class’ teacher seemed to have no ethical problem bording a flight hired in by Norwegian to speed the group on its way. That’s been equated with strike-busting by the union, but the teacher enthusiastically told NRK on an early-morning newscast Thursday that the unexpected all-night bus ride had gone well and both he and his class were optimistic the long-planned study tour would not be spoiled.