This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
Norwegian Air will close all long-haul operations and concentrate its efforts on a dedicated short-haul network in Europe with Boeing 737s, the low-cost airline announced Thursday. The move comes days after the airline reported a 94 percent decrease in passenger numbers and a 98 percent decline in revenue passenger kilometers (RPKs) during the month of December, as it flew just nine airplanes out of a fleet of 132 Boeing 737s and 787s. In response to the Covid pandemic, the group grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 787s in March last year and began returning airplanes to their lessors this month.
“Our short-haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model,” said Norweigian CEO Jacob Schram.
The airline’s new business plan calls for the operation of about 50 narrowbodies by the end of the year and an increase in that number to some 70 in 2022. The airline said it hopes to raise between 4 and 5 billion Norwegian kroners ($473 million-$591 million) in new capital through a combination of a share rights issue to current shareholders, a private placement, and what it calls a hybrid instrument. It also confirmed it has received “concrete interest” in participation in the private placement. Norwegian has recently reinitiated talks with the Norwegian government about possible state participation based on the new business plan.
A statement from the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) said the company would shed all 300 of its UK-based pilots and another 700 of its London Gatwick-based employees. The cuts will affect more than another 1,100 jobs in Spain, France, and the U.S.
In November Norwegian initiated the equivalent of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy process in Ireland following the Norwegian government’s decision to withhold further financial support for the troubled airline. Norwegian chose so-called examinership in Ireland because the airline holds its aircraft assets in that country, in part because Norway is not a member of the European Union.