Norwegian Air fills more seats on aircraft despite fall in passengers

Grounding of 737 Max jets hits passenger figures for June

Norwegian Air has curbed its rapid growth this year to focus on cutting costs and turning a profit.  Photograph: Jon Nazca/File Photo/Reuters

Norwegian Air has curbed its rapid growth this year to focus on cutting costs and turning a profit. Photograph: Jon Nazca/File Photo/Reuters

 

Norwegian Air filled more seats on its planes than expected in June, compensating for a dip in passenger numbers due to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max jets, sending its shares higher on Thursday.

Europe’s third largest budget carrier by passengers flown has curbed its rapid growth this year to focus on cutting costs and turning a profit. It has also raised 3 billion Norwegian crowns (€310m) from shareholders to boost its finances.

The airline’s load factor, which measures how well it fills its aircraft, rose to 91.5 per cent from 90.5 per cent in June 2018, and topped the 90.7 per cent forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. Its yield, reflecting revenue per passenger carried and kilometre flown, rose to 0.45 crown from 0.42 crown, just ahead of the 0.44 crown seen by analysts.

“The efforts of closing down unprofitable routes are obviously starting to pay off, in addition to the fact that existing routes are becoming more mature and thereby perform better,” Danske Bank analysts said in a note. “We expect continued solid traffic figures for the coming months in terms of load and underlying yield.”

Norwegian’s shares were up 4.5 per cent to 38.98 crowns on Thursday morning, outperforming an Oslo benchmark index up 0.7 per cent.

The number of passengers flown in June fell 1 per cent year-on-year, Norwegian said, while capacity growth – measured in terms of seats multiplied by kilometres flown – rose 5 per cent, slower than the 8.3 per cent expected by analysts.

“The total number of passengers declined slightly in June due to the grounding of 18 Boeing 737 Max and less charter capacity,” the company said.

More than 300 Max jets have been grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes killed a total of almost 350 people. Some airlines now expect the plane to remain out of action until the end of 2019. Norwegian operates 18 of the aircraft.

– Reuters