The boss of budget long-haul airline Norwegian has hit back at critics, claiming they are "afraid of competition", amid a raging debate over how the Scandinavian company employs workers.
Norwegian launched a twice-weekly transatlantic flight from London to Los Angeles on Wednesday, and will also fly to Fort Lauderdale and New York, beginning this week. These event marks the first venture into budget long-haul flights since Freddie Laker's Skytrain failed in 1982.
But Norwegian has been caught up in controversy over its employment policy and been accused by the several pilot unions across the world of hiring Thai crew on Singaporean contracts. The company has a "resource group" in Singapore from where it can hire staff from Bangkok. The unions claim that Norwegian is able to hire lower cost workers who also have poorer training than U.S. and European standards, putting passengers' safety at risk.
The budget carrier has repeatedly refuted the claims and explained its policies in a post on its website last month.
"Ireland was not chosen because the country has specific rules and regulations that allow the use of American or Asian crew, like some politicians and unions have claimed," the company said.
"The airline fully complies with European safety standards (EASA) and its crews are trained according to EU standards and the company's own additional training programs."
Norwegian, which also operates similar long-haul routes between Thailand, Scandinavia and the U.S., has a fully-owned subsidiary in Ireland. Critics have likened its operations to the shipping tactic know as a "flag of convenience" whereby a merchant ship registers in a country different to that of its owner to take advantages of lenient regulations. The unions claim that Norwegian is using lax labor laws in Ireland to hire cheaper workers from Asia.