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Norwegian Air tries to limit strike impact

[OSLO] Norwegian Air plans to bring in planes and staff to try and keep some of its European routes running on Wednesday as a strike by pilots over pay at the low-cost carrier escalated.

Europe's third-biggest budget airline has cancelled all its domestic flights on Wednesday in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, as well as flights between the three countries' capitals, after the number of pilots on strike jumped to 650 from 70.

The pilots are demanding a collective labour agreement with Norwegian Air's parent company, instead of its local subsidiaries, and for uniform terms across the Nordic region. They went on strike after talks broke down on Saturday. "We are going to hire planes and staff in the hope that we manage to complete some Europe routes today," the airline's spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen told broadcaster TV2. "When the subsidiary not is able to deliver the services they are supposed to, then we must get it elsewhere," he said.

The pilots on strike are employed by Norwegian Air Norway, a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle, which operates the flights.

Norwegian Air has said Wednesday's cancellations would affect more than 35,000 passengers in the Nordic region. It expected long-haul routes to Asia and the United States to be unaffected.

The pilots' trade union said it considered the airline's measures to keep some planes flying a breach of strike rules and called on international trade unions to take sympathy action. "We hope they will come and help us," head of the union Parat, Hans-Erik Skjaeggestad, told TV2.

In addition to the 650 pilots involved in the strike, 40 Swedish pilots employed by Norwegian Air will take part in a sympathy strike from Wednesday, Parat said.

REUTERS