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U.S.-based Norwegian flight attendants: Does my job not matter?

Blog post   •   May 18, 2016 17:00 EDT

Norwegian's Long Haul Cabin Crew Members

I am an American and I am a proud to work as a flight attendant for Norwegian. For more than two years, and especially over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading news reports about how my company is trying to steal American jobs and even threatening to put U.S. airlines out of business. Most of my colleagues and I have worked for a number of airlines – both U.S.-based and international – and it saddens all of us to hear that we are “stealing American jobs” when we are in fact Americans, based in either New York or Fort Lauderdale.

In fact, just the other week, the International President of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, an organization representing more than 50,000 flight attendants, made a very misleading claim about the DOT’s tentative decision for Norwegian Air International (NAI): American aviation workers do not matter. As an American aviation worker, I am offended by that statement. Does that mean that my job doesn’t matter? Although my colleagues and I are a small number compared to the work forces of the U.S. airlines, Norwegian has more U.S.-based cabin crew than any other foreign airline. The company continues to add to its U.S.-based crew, and the plan is to open more crew bases across the country as the airline expands. That means, Norwegian will be hiring hundreds more U.S.-based workers. How is this threatening American jobs?

It saddens me deeply that my fellow American flight attendants are fed such claims by their labor unions when it’s the complete opposite of the truth. NAI, the Irish-based subsidiary that the labor unions want to deny access to fly to the U.S., will fly with U.S. and European crew on a fleet of Boeing aircraft.

I’ve heard everything from “NAI will compromise safety” to “NAI is using cheap labor.” Not only would my colleagues and I never – ever – compromise the safety of our passengers. In fact, since we work for a European airline, we follow stricter crew training rules under the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) than the U.S.’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). EASA rules are also more protective of its crew than the FAA’s rules.

Additionally, we are also paid competitively. Many of my colleagues say they make more money flying for Norwegian than for their previous airline. Many of my colleagues also say they are happier flying for Norwegian than their previous airline because they get to fly intercontinental routes. Simply put -- many of my colleagues say they are happier flying for a European airline than an American one.

I am extremely proud to be a part of Norwegian’s first U.S.-based cabin crew class. Although it’s only been three years, the airline has gone from a handful of transatlantic flights to 39 routes out of the U.S. – operating many new transatlantic routes that did not exist previously. I hear directly from our passengers that they are grateful that cities like Oakland and Fort Lauderdale now have nonstop routes to Europe. With NAI, I look forward to hearing that from many more customers about all of our new routes. NAI will allow Norwegian to open up new destinations and make it easier and more affordable for Americans to fly to Europe and bring more tourists to the U.S., and of course, there will be even more Americans working for Norwegian.

Joseph Gabriel is Norwegian's Fort Lauderdale Base Chief