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
- 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
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?