Norwegian Just Posted Huge Losses, and Now Emirates Is Trying to Poach Its Pilots

Feb 9, 2019

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On Thursday, Norwegian Air posted a net loss of 1.5 billion Norwegian kroner ($175 million USD) for 2018.

Now another airline, Emirates, is trying to poach its pilots.

An internal memo from the Dubai-based carrier on Jan. 29 states that Emirates is eyeing fellow Gulf airline Etihad as well as struggling Norwegian to help patch its enduring shortage of pilots, according to Bloomberg.

“The current situation with several airlines in financial difficulty globally leaves Emirates in a good position to be sourcing and selecting good-quality pilots,” the internal note said. In January alone, the airline was able to hire 52 pilots: the highest number of new cockpit crew members since August 2016, Bloomberg reported.

In fact, Emirates now has a surplus of applicants, saying the number of pilots who applied “is higher than the number of candidates that can be invited.”

The memo, which Bloomberg says seemed to be a meeting report, stated that 499 crew members have been “deemed eligible” to join Emirates between April and the end of 2019. In April 2018, Emirates president Tim Clark said the airline would be short-staffed by about 100 to 150 pilots as it tried to meet increased demand throughout the summer of 2018, forcing the carrier to trim back on some routes.

For Norwegian’s part, after one of the most rapid expansions in aviation history, it is hurting for cash. The fact that another carrier sees Norwegian’s pilots as prime for poaching is reflective of the airline’s cost-cutting and slowing growth.

The low-cost carrier has repeatedly blamed its shaky finances on high fuel prices, strong competition and issues with Rolls Royce engines on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, but it may well have just taken on too many planes and opened too many transatlantic routes too quickly.

Executives at Norwegian have promised to curb the airline’s expansion and focus solely on actually turning a profit. “Going into 2019, we will enter a period of slower growth and fewer investments, while constantly looking for new and smarter ways to improve our efficiency and offer new products and services to attract new customers,” said the carrier’s Chief Executive Bjørn Kjos.

Photo by Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images.

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