Representatives from the Norwegian, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, Irish LCC Ryanair and UK LCC easyJet pilot groups, as well as French, Dutch and Argentinian pilots’ unions, have met to discuss better representation for pilots working for the growing number of transnational airlines in Europe, the European Cockpit Association (ECA) said.

Transnational airlines, which can adapt their business structures for different markets and operate with multiple air operator’s certificates (AOCs), have been growing rapidly: UK LCC Norwegian recently obtained its Argentinian AOC as part of ambitious expansion plans there and several airlines, including easyJet and Central and eastern European LCC Wizz Air, have obtained additional AOCs and set up new subsidiaries to secure their flying rights post-Brexit.

Fast-growing Ryanair, which last year reversed its stance on not recognizing unions, now plans to base aircraft in France and grow there.

“The growth of transnational airlines operating throughout Europe, and further afield, has led pilots to recognize that they must cooperate even more closely and adopt new representation methods to address the challenges arising from these new business models,” the ECA said.

Following the April 12 meeting, ECA president Dirk Polloczek said: “The EU [European Union] has created cross-border structures to deal with safety and operational matters, like the European Aviation Safety Agency [EASA] and to deal with economic liberalization, but the social structures are missing. This leaves pilots no other option but to look for their own, creative transnational solutions.”

Pilots want to communicate and exchange information more effectively, as well as to establish common objectives and explore how to meet them, the ECA said.

“People are the very resource that allows airlines to achieve a competitive advantage,” said Martin Stork, president of the Norwegian pilot group (NPG). “The key message coming from the meeting is that low cost should not have to equate to low social standards.”

Helen Massy-Beresford, helen.massy-beresford@aviationweek.co.uk