The struggling Norwegian Air Shuttle, instead of paying wages, reportedly offered its employees to keep their uniforms and cabin bags as souvenirs.

In January 2021, Norwegian announced it was dropping long-haul operations from its business model and laying off around 1,100 pilots and cabin crew based at London Gatwick (LGW) airport. The airline’s workers in the UK, assisted by British trade union Unite the Union, said they were “thrown under a bus” as a result. To make matters worse, instead of pay, the airline staff were reportedly offered to keep their uniforms and branded cabin bags.

“Norwegian Air UK staff are angry and frustrated at the appalling way they have been treated by the airline’s leadership both here and abroad. Despite being promised in November they would be paid if the company entered into administration, they have been left with nothing,” said Jamie Major, the regional officer at the Unite.

Unite also raised concerns over £10.5 million that was promised to Norwegian Air’s UK operations (NAR UK) but was never received. According to the union, that money could permit paying the staff the owed wages.

KPMG, the company which is handling the liquidation of NAR UK, has promised to investigate the owed money as well as assist the laid off workers to apply for compensation. 

“Given this outcome and its impact on staff, our clear priority is to work with the employees and their representatives so that we can assist them with making claims to the Redundancy Payments Service, as well as assisting them in securing training records and other important information,” said David Pike, partner at KPMG, the company which is handling the airline’s liquidation.

However, the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) said that employees had been “left with nothing”. The workers were reportedly told they would not be paid owed salary, holiday or notice pay despite recent assurances from Norwegian. 

“The airline continues in Norway and has received significant government bailouts there, and yet the whole company is being liquidated in the UK and its employees left high and dry,” was written in BALPA’s statement.

After stopping the long-haul operation, Norwegian aims to be back at operating nordic short-haul flights using its single-aisle Boeing 737 jets.

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