According to US ALPA (Air Line Pilot Association) low-cost foreign airlines are threatening US airlines by establishing convenience flag operations, skirting tax, labour and safety regulations, thus gaining unfair advantages. ALPA sees similarities with the shipping industry, which has seen this development over decades and has cost the US shipping 23% volume and 87% jobs since convenience flag became predominant. The fear is real that this will hit the airline industry in much the similar way.
Norwegian with its various company constructions is one of the airlines competing on an un-level playing field with offsprings like Norwegian Air International and Norwegian Air UK now applying for US licenses. The US Department of Transportation (DOT) are using sixteen different criteria, such as air safety, fair competition, fair wages and working conditions and customer concerns when evaluation airline applications. Unless regulations are changed, it is unlikely that Norwegian will succeed since they failed tests initially, all according to ALPA.
Unfortunately US airlines are not the only ones affected by the low-cost airlines. General flight safety is affected when cost-cutting is the dominant trend. That trend has now gone really off the rails, including suggestions to eliminate one of the pilots and possibly eliminate pilots all together. That will be for future generations to ponder, since polls show not many passengers today will even consider boarding a plane with a missing cockpit. The joke has been around for years; ”Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board this fully automatic aircraft. You don’t have to worry since nothing can go wr..nothing can go wr..nothing can go wr..
The sad part is that cost-cutting affect flight safety across the board with four major problem areas; excessive working hours causing fatigue, pilot competence and training, overhaul and fuel reserves. These issues has caused several fatal accidents lately and will most likely cause more if reins are not pulled in. Unfortunately the trend is negative. In an airline without a labour force employed in the traditional fashion – including a pilot- and cabin crew union – there is virtually no possibility to have full control over crew skills. Further more a non-union pilot will fly planes with technical malfunctions, with marginal fuel reserves and sometimes dead tired, since not doing so might affect his or her employment status.
You get what you pay for. Worth thinking about next time you’re sitting up there at 35.000 feet. But why worry. 100.000 planes get back to earth in good shape every day…