Kjos said at a press conference that Norwegian was aware as far back as December that it would have too few pilots this summer. The airline CEO said that the pilot shortage and other factors such as aviation strikes in France have forced Norwegian to cancel a number of flights in the busy holiday season.
“When we have low staffing levels and the simultaneous strikes in France, that's when things go wrong,” Kjos said.
The CEO said that Norwegian is short on crew for two reasons. First, the airline discovered too late that it had planned too few pilot courses and second, the airline's holiday buy-back agreement with pilots was scrapped after 14 years.
“We had not taken that into account,” Kjos said. “It has been absolutely terrible, and it's very unfortunate for those who have experienced cancellations.”
The airline owner said Norwegian will train 275 new pilots this year.
Late on Wednesday, the airline and pilot union Parat announced that they had agreed to a new agreement to solve Norwegian's staffing shortage.
“We have finally arrived at a solution. We have signed an agreement for increased permanent staffing, and also the continuation of the agreement regarding the sale of holidays. We will increasing staffing with a significant number of permanent employees in Scandinavia,” Norwegian spokesman Tomas Hesthammer said.
“We encourage the pilots to sell their holidays so that we can safely get passengers on their way. Witnessing so many passengers struggle as of course taken its toll,” he added.
Norwegian cancelled at least 18 flights over the weekend, leaving many domestic and international travellers in the lurch just as the peak holiday travel season got underway.