Norwegian Scrambles to Replace Grounded Max Capacity

 - March 25, 2019, 2:42 PM

Oslo-based low-cost carrier Norwegian will reallocate Boeing 737-800s with ETOPS certification to the thinner transatlantic routes served previously by its 737 Max 8 jets and bring into service some temporarily parked Boeing 787s as part of its ongoing efforts to limit disruptions caused by the global Max 8 grounding. It plans to use the widebodies on high-volume routes. In a Monday update on the grounding of its Max fleet and the impact on its operations, Norwegian said it retains “some” available capacity in the 787 Dreamliner fleet.

“We had some 787s parked because it is still the winter season and we fly less, and we did have some parked because of the issues with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines,” a spokesman for the airline told AIN. Norwegian last year decided to preemptively remove from service two or three 787s during the low season to ensure the Trent 1000 powerplants didn’t exceed required frequent inspection cycles and force a sudden grounding, the spokesman said. Following the mandated Max grounding by the authorities, these 787s will go back into service earlier than planned.

Other mitigating measures include postponing the “potential” sale of six Boeing 737-800s and wet-leasing additional capacity, Norwegian Air Shuttle said. The company, which remains in the midst of a restructuring exercise to strengthen its balance sheet and improve profitability, did not detail whether or not it might source narrowbody or widebody aircraft on an ACMI basis.

With 18 Max 8s in its fleet, Norwegian ranks as the European airline most affected by the type’s grounding, even though the Maxes account for only one percent of the LCC’s systemwide capacity. “The total impact on the network should be small,” said the Norwegian spokesman, while confirming Norwegian used its Max 8s mainly on transatlantic routes from Ireland. Norwegian used its fleet of new Boeing 737 Max 8s to launch low-cost transatlantic services from Dublin, Cork, and Shannon to New York Stewart International Airport (SWF) and Providence T. F. Green International Airport (PVD) over the past two years. It planned to start flying between Dublin and Hamilton Airport in Canada with a Max 8 starting March 31. The latter will go ahead as scheduled, but with an ETOPS-certified Boeing 737-800. The airline’s fleet contains several ETOPS-rated NGs, the spokesman said.

Immediately following EASA’s March 12 Airworthiness Directive suspending flight operations of all Boeing 737-8 Max and 737-9 Max jets in Europe, Norwegian combined its Dublin-SWF and Dublin-PVD services and transferred a 787-9, registered G-CKWF, and crew from London Gatwick to Dublin Airport to operate the combined daily route. It arranged bus transportation for passengers traveling onward to Providence. Norwegian on Monday released other changes to its Irish transatlantic network through April 10 and said it is “actively working on more permanent measures to operate normal services from April 11 that will minimize inconvenience for customers.”

Norwegian also said it maintains “a good dialogue with Boeing and is confident to reach a constructive agreement,” without providing details on the amount of the compensation. Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos was the first to announce his airline would seek compensation from the manufacturer. “It is quite obvious we will not take the cost related to the new aircraft that we have to park temporarily," he asserted in a video message on the Norwegian website. “We will send this bill to those who produce this aircraft.”