Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

Norwegian’s Boeing 787 Gatwick crews asked to slash hours or take unpaid leave

Links on Head for Points may pay us an affiliate commission. A list of partners is here.

This isn’t our usual sort of Head for Points story, but with loyalty news slim over the Bank Holiday weekend I thought you would find this an interesting addition.

Behind most stories we run on HfP about new airlines routes, closed routes, new hotels or major changes to loyalty programmes is some sort of human cost.  We rarely think about it, but it is there, going on in the background.

A few days ago we ran a story about major long-haul changes by Norwegian at Gatwick.  The following long-haul routes are being handed over to third-party airlines for the short term:

Norwegian cabin crew asked to slash hours

Gatwick to New York JFK (DI7013/14) – Evelop Airlines using an A330-300

Gatwick to Orlando – Hi-Fly using an A340-300

Gatwick to Miami – Privilege Style using a Boeing 777-200

Gatwick to Chicago – Wamos Air using an A330-200

Gatwick to Denver – Wamos Air using an A330-200

None of this is Norwegian’s fault, except at a strategic level.  It based its entire long-haul plans around the Boeing 787 – theoretically a low running cost long-haul aircraft – and the bulk of the Rolls-Royce powered Boeing 787-9 fleet is now grounded due to serious engine defects.

Wamos, Privilege Style etc are ‘wet leasing’ aircraft to Norwegian.  This means that the aircraft come with their own flight crew.  It couldn’t work any other way, since Norwegian long-haul crew are not trained to operate A330, A340 or Boeing 777 aircraft.

This means that Norwegian has a lot of Boeing 787 flight crew at Gatwick who have just drawn a very short straw.

Gatwick-based Boeing 787 crew were emailed last week with the following options.  Note that these are only ‘options’, and there is no guarantee that any individual crew member will receive the option they select.  They are all unpalatable to anyone with bills to pay.  I have made minor edits below for the sake of clarity.

Option 1 – Leave of absence without pay

  • Available for a period of 3 months, 6 months or 9 months only
  • Use of your benefits such as ID travel will be maintained throughout this period
  • You can work for other companies throughout this period, but not competitors of OSM Aviation and Norwegian
  • Annual leave will continue to be accrued

Option 2 – Career break

  • Available for a 12-month period only
  • No entitlement to your benefits such as ID travel throughout this period
  • You can work for other companies during your career break, including competitors of OSM Aviation and Norwegian
  • This will be considered as a resignation from your employment with a guaranteed re-entry after the 12-month period
  • You will maintain continuity of service/seniority on return

Option 3 – Month on / month off

  • You will work every second month, and be off every other month
  • You will not be able to swap shifts to work on your off month
  • You will be paid 100% salary each month you work (which is paid in the current month as normal) and all variables will be paid a month in arrears
  • All contractual benefits including vacation will be pro-rata’d and based on the period of months worked
  • Available for a 6-month period only
  • Start of month off will be June or July – this will be allocated and not optional

Option 4 – 75% temporary part-time roster

  • Available for a 6-month period only
  • Fully flexible roster
  • 16 working days / 14 days off per month
  • Your basic salary will be pro-rata to the percentage
  • All contractual benefits, including phone allowance, vacation allowance are pro-rata

Option 5 – 50% temporary part-time roster

  • Available for a 6-month period only
  • Fully flexible roster
  • 11 working days / 19 days off per month
  • Your basic salary will be pro-rata to the percentage
  • All contractual benefits, including phone allowance, vacation allowance are pro-rata

Norwegian cabin crew asked to slash hours

Crew are only allowed to select one option – it is not clear what happens if a crew member does not select an option or that option is refused.

For clarity, Norwegian had little choice here.  The airline is struggling financially and it has a few hundred UK cabin crew with no aircraft for them to fly until the end of 2019.   The Boeing 787 engine saga has a real human cost.

Comments (70)

  • BJ says:

    787 with two major issues, both contained as opposed to fully solved and resolved. 737 with at least one major issue. Story here is best avoid routes/airlines operating these aircraft. Companies that are stupid enough to buy them should accept the cost and Boeing/RR should compensate realistically for losses incurred. Should not be the staff paying. Meantime, I have proactively avoided 787 and 737 and will continue to do so. Risks seem small but if easily avoided why not, both have been grounded for extensive periods, problems have been contained, not solved, what more reason do airlines and passengers need to avoid them?

    • Julian says:

      Only 737 Max operated flights need to be avoided.

      Avoiding all 737 operated flights is unnecessary (plus also extremely difficult to do given how common a short haul plane type they are) given that the problems are restricted solely to the very small number of 737 Max aircraft that were previously in service but that are now grounded for an indefinite period of time.

      Presumably the long term costs to Boeing in terms of their future order book are potentially massive. Although is there any way Airbus could make use of Bombardier’s up for sale aircraft productions facilities and associated skilled staff in Northern Ireland to help scale up aircraft production capacity in the long run?

      • Julian says:

        P.S. Answering my own question I guess Airbus won’t be interested as long as BREXIT remains likely to happen in any fashion other than one that involves a permanent Customs Union.

  • Alex says:

    One of more interesting articles recently this is.

  • Isaac Bermejo says:

    Well, painful as it is, at least the crew are not simply made redundant and get fired. Kudos to the HR department for thinking about it and planning these 5 options.

    Other companies would have just applied the lineal solution: 50% less production -> 50% less people to “take care”. And kick in the *ss. (Or move to another base in a distant country, yes, you know the drill)

    • Bagoly says:

      I agree.
      The airline had to cut costs somehow, or go bust and everyone loses their jobs.
      Providing multiple options means that various staff will come up with various imaginative approaches, and some will find different futures without say 50% of them suddenly facing “I can’t pay next month’s rent”.

      Apart from being a good corporate citizen, it’s also sensible even from a self-interest point of view:
      Assuming that they do carry on, with the 787s working in the future they will need to then ramp up staff, and having current staff back will save training costs and be less hassle.
      Giving people options, even if somewhat unpalatable ones, annoys them much less than if something is forced on them.

      • David says:

        Although – let’s not rule out DY going bust and everyone losing their jobs anyway…

  • Rob says:

    I’m flying business from Gatwick on Saturday.

    What’s the best lounge?

    And how early can I check in for a BA flight?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Genghis says:

      There’s only one BA lounge. Immediately after security, take the hallway to the left hand side to the level of the BA lounge (i.e. no need to go down and up). If you have PP, the Grain Store (£15pp x 2 per card) is on the LHS as soon as you enter the concourse after you take the aforementioned hallway. You can check in for your BA flight exactly 24 hours before.

      • Rob says:


        Is it a good lounge?

        Or is it worth paying for access to another?

        • Genghis says:

          IMO it’s better than the equivalent at LHR. I wouldn’t pay for another lounge if you’ve already “paid” for BA lounge access.

          • Rob says:


            We are having work done to the house the day we are flying.

            We’re flying at 6:00PM so hoping to arrive at 1ish to dump the bags, get int he lounge to let the builders crack on.

          • David says:

            LGW Club is the best BA operated business lounge I’ve ever been to. Definitely don’t pay for anything else.

        • Crazy says:

          Whoah…..I’d never let builders loose in my house and then disappear!

          • Nick says:

            Maybe you should get new builders? I always go away during building work – let them get on with it with a proper deep clean on completion of the work before I return. So much less stressful.

  • Nick says:

    Rob, for clarity, are you talking in this article about ‘flight crew’ (= pilots), cabin crew, or both?

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    If they did this to the pilots, they’d have none left!

    (All the other airlines are desperate for pilots – so you can’t afford to p-off the ones you have. Ryanair know this to their cost – hence recognising trade unions)

    • Lesley says:

      I would imagine any of the crew who have gumption will be looking around for another job – leaving only those who are happy to pootle around and those who no one else wants. I expect the standard of service on air Norwegian to go down in the coming months and who could blame the staff for that. I would imagine if they refuse to take it then they will be made redundent on statutory minimum payments.

      • Shoestring says:

        Harsh judgement? Many cabin crew seem to do it not only because they love the job but also because they get all the cheap travel perks (and overnighting away which I guess can be fun if you’re young free & single). A few months off, free to travel to Norwegian destinations on the cheap, but with money still coming in? Many of them might jump at the chance.

  • Tyra says:

    Welcome back Rhys! 😊

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.