Surprising: Norwegian Air Resuming 76 Routes In July

Filed Under: Norwegian

In the past couple of weeks we’ve seen many airlines become more optimistic about future prospects, as consumers seem keen to travel again. You can now add Norwegian Air to the list of airlines ramping up operations sooner than expected.

Norwegian was supposed to (mostly) stay grounded until 2021

In a business plan presented in late April, Norwegian Air made it clear that the plan was for most flights to only resume in 2021:

  • Short haul operations (within Norway) would continue operating at a minimum level
  • European short haul operations would remain grounded in 2020, and flights would resume in 2021, with normal operations by 2022
  • Long haul operations would remain grounded in 2020, and flights would resume in 2021, with normal operations by 2022

Norwegian resuming European routes in July

Norwegian Air now plans to launch 76 routes within Europe as of July 1, 2020. The airline currently has eight planes in operation, and will bring back a further 12 planes in order to operate all routes, meaning Norwegian will operate a fleet of 20 Boeing 737-800s this summer.

Norwegian’s 737 MAX 8 fleet is grounded

This increase in operations is happening as some European countries start to reopen for tourism, at least for visitors from other European countries.

As Norwegian Air CEO Jacob Schram describes this move:

“Feedback from our customers has shown that they are keen to get back in the air and resume their travels with Norwegian beyond the current domestic services that we have been operating.

Norwegian is returning to European skies with the reintroduction of more aircraft to serve our key destinations which will ensure that we remain in line with competing carriers.”

Norwegian laid off or furloughed 90% of staff

Norwegian Air has undergone a significant business transformation, and as part of that the airline has laid off or furloughed 90% of staff, which translates to around 7,300 employees. We’ve even seen some Norwegian Air subsidiaries that were responsible for employment file for bankruptcy.

So how will the airline staff these flights? 300 pilots and 600 cabin crew from Norwegian’s Norway bases will operate the 20 aircraft, with 200 pilots and 400 cabin crew being brought back from furlough.

Norwegian still has a tough road ahead. The airline was struggling financially before this all started, yet amazingly enough has dodged liquidation a countless number of times.

Most recently we saw a debt-to-equity swap at the airline, which was a condition of the airline receiving state aid. At this point majority control of the airline belongs to lessors, including BOC Aviation, which is controlled by the Chinese government.

Norwegian won’t be resuming long haul flights for now

Bottom line

Norwegian Air will resume 76 routes within Europe as of July 1, 2020, using a total of 20 aircraft. The airline was initially only supposed to restart most Europe flights as of 2021, so this represents quite a change of heart.

I wouldn’t expect Norwegian to restart long haul operations anytime soon, given the stricter border closures, but this is at least something. It’ll be interesting to see how Norwegian performs this summer.

Are you surprised to see Norwegian resuming flights at least six months earlier than expected?

Comments
  1. @This is actually the entirety of Norwegian’s short haul fleet — the airline exclusively uses 737s for short haul flights, and has 20 737-800s

    Norwegian has a fleet of about 80 737-800 spread across various subsidiaries – Norwegian Air International, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Norwegian Air Sweden.

    So they would operated about a quarter of the short haul fleet.

  2. Not gonna happen; wishful thinking, in spades. Many of these destinations will be a lockdown from a second wave. I hope I’m wrong.

  3. @Paolo

    Uhm, no one is going to lockdown for a virus that is 99.74% survivable.

    That’s the difference. We have the data now we didn’t have in March when everyone panicked.

    People said then it had an IFR of up to 3%! And millions would die in each country.

    That was wrong. It about 2x the flu or maybe the same.

    You lock up the old and vulnerable and let normal people live their lives.

    Travel is growing, and no one will tolerate going through this again for no reason again.

  4. @Howard
    Certainly NOT. Without the lockdowns/severe restrictions on movement/social distancing, millions would have died…without a shadow of doubt. Eastern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, all of Central and South America, much of Africa….are in the early stages. Now is not the time for dilettantes to start swanning around the world, particularly as there’s no compelling reason for it.
    Travel might be possible in the first quarter of 2021, but certainly not this year.

  5. I think the truth is probably somewhere between Howard’s and Paolo’s reactions. Estimates for IFR I’ve seen tend to be between 0.5% and 1%, which is still fairly low, but I haven’t seen much evidence pointing that it’s .26% (feel free to link to source though, I may have just missed it).

    That being said, even with this higher IFR, I’m not sure places will lock down for a second wave. France has already said they won’t be locking down again, as they can now test and contact trace as necessary, and they have sufficient hospital capacity to deal with another wave. I’m not sure what other European countries are doing, but it would surprise me if there were more full scale confinements like what we just went through.

    That being said, people will likely still travel at reduced rates and there maybe some restrictions imposed, both of which will cut down on the profitability of these routes. Given that Norwegian wasn’t doing well even before this, I wonder how long they’ll be able to keep it up.

  6. Within Europe is a bit misleading. It’s mostly between Oslo and European cities, with some routes from other Scandinavian airports.

    It’s also worth to notice that Norway (and many other European countries) still have pretty strict entry rules, which makes this interesting.

  7. It’s also with mentioning that August is coming and for anyone with European friends or family, you understand what I mean by that…It has been very easy for Europe to sit back and say what they should have done, or what PRC or North America should have done, but try and tell them that they all aren’t going on “summer holiday’…They will lose their minds…!!!

  8. Most of Europe is starting up no later than 30JUN with no restrictions.. Even Countries like Ukraine have opened and will have no restrictions.

  9. I was a t Norwegian customer who frequently recommended Norwegian to friends. Some of my friends friends are still owed money for long canceled flights

    Norwegian continued to sell tickets for flights knowing full well that they would not be flying those routes on those dates.

    The one word description for what Norwegian did is fraud.

    The idea was to collect a fare and then try to trick customers into accepting their “cashpoints” of a future flight without knowing what routes and fares will eventually become available.
    Great way to raise interest free capital, provide your dishonest.

    Norwegian website website represented longed cancel flights as “sold out” to avoid issuing refunds and continue to pester customers via email to accept cashpoints.

    My personal experience has been Norwegian only actually issues legally mandated refunds for canceled flights under threat of a DOT or EU-261 complaint.

    I will never fly them again and will always warn friends that Norwegian’s management has proven themselves dishonest and unethical.

  10. I’m not surprised. Most European countries — with the exception of the United Kingdom and Sweden — have basically suppressed their epidemics. The European Union is the safest place in the world right now. And, of course, Europeans recognize that and are ready to enjoy their summer holidays.

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