Low-cost, long-haul airline, Norwegian just can’t seem to stop beating its own records. This time, the Oslo-based carrier has reported its single best month for passenger numbers with 3.8 million passengers being carried by the airline in July. That’s a 13% uplift on the same month last year.
Unsurprisingly, much of that growth has been driven by Norwegian’s rapid expansion – despite ongoing issues affecting engines on its long-haul fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. The airline has weathered a storm whipped up by its controversial leasing of a very unpopular dilapidated Wamos Air 747 to report a staggering passenger load factor of 93%.
The news comes amidst ongoing speculation of a potential takeover of the relative newcomer as a wave of airline consolidation sweeps across Europe. Norwegian’s quirky chief executive, Bjørn Kjos has previously said he is willing to consider offers for the airline he established but selling the airline isn’t Norwegian’s primary business strategy.
In April, IAG which is one of Europe’s largest airline groups and the owner of British Airways and Iberia took a token 4.6% stake in Norwegian. That was part of a plan to open up talks with Norwegian about a possible takeover but the upstart airline rebuffed two bids from IAG, saying they significantly undervalued Norwegian.
In the last week, there’s been speculation that IAG will sell off its 4.6% stake – with Willie Walsh, the CEO of IAG saying it was never his intention to simply become an investor in Norwegian. That being said, Walsh said he is still interested in acquiring Norwegian.
“We believe that long-haul, low cost is a segment of the market that is underserved and we believe that we can do so profitably,” Walsh reportedly told a BBC Radio reporter.
“So while their (Norwegian’s) financial performance has been stressed, I think Norwegian as part of IAG could be transformed. We’re not in any active discussions with them at the moment. We continue to look at Norwegian and we continue to have some interest in it.”
Despite those comments, Norwegian’s financial performance in recent months has been far stronger than what many analysts were expecting. Rivals have often mocked Norwegian, suggesting the airline’s financial position is in dire straits. Reacting to rumours that Ryanair was interested in making a bid for its low-cost competitor, a spokesman said the Dublin-based airline “didn’t catch falling knives”.
In the last week, Norwegian became the first long-term lessor of a second-hand Airbus A380 which is operated by the wet-lease airline, Hi-Fly. The A380, which previously belonged to Singapore Airways, will be used for one of Norwegian’s scheduled flights between London Gatwick and New York JFK while its own planes undergo maintenance.
Norwegian is currently actively recruiting new Boeing 737 pilots for its Dublin base following news that it intends to dramatically increase the number of transatlantic services from Ireland next year.