Norwegian Air to end long haul business

Up to 2,000 jobs affected by the move as airline focuses on core Nordics business

Norwegian Air is to end its long-haul business. Photograph: iStock

Norwegian Air is to end its long-haul business. Photograph: iStock

 

Troubled airline Norwegian is to ditch its long-haul business to concentrate on its short-haul business, in a move that will affect 2,000 jobs at the airline.

The company today outlined a new plan to simplify its business structure and services, concentrating on building a dedicated short-haul network.

Norwegian’s entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet has been grounded since March 2020 amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the airline said future demand remains “highly uncertain”. Under the circumstances, it said its long-haul operation was not viable.

“The consequence of this decision is that the board of directors of the legal entities employing primarily long-haul staff in Italy, France, the UK and the US have contacted insolvency practitioners,” Norwegian said in a statement.

The company said it would focus on its core Nordics business, operating a European short-haul network with narrow body aircraft. It plans to have 50 aircraft in operation in 2021, increasing that number to 70 next year.

“Our short-haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model,” said Jacob Schram, chief executive of Norwegian. “By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe. ”

The airline is also looking to reduce its debt to about 20 billion crowns (€1.9bn) and to raise up to 5 billion crowns in new capital through a combination of a rights issue to current shareholders, a private placement and a hybrid instrument.

Norwegian risks running out of cash by the end of March if it fails to restructure debt and liabilities of 66.8 billion crowns, including 48.5 billion in interest-bearing debt, it warned late last year.

Reorganisation

“Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible. We do not expect customer demand in the long-haul sector to recover in the near future, and our focus will be on developing our short-haul network as we emerge from the reorganisation process,” said Mr Schram. “It is with a heavy heart that we must accept that this will impact dedicated colleagues from across the company. I would like to thank each one of our affected colleagues for their tireless dedication and contribution to Norwegian over the years.”

The examinership and reconstruction processes undertaken in Ireland and Norway will continue as planned, Norwegian said.

“Overall, this seems like a sensible plan,” Davy analysts wrote in a note. “In particular, the long-haul business was volatile and generally loss-making since its launch in 2013 – in this environment, withdrawal is the only viable option.” – Additional reporting: Reuters