The low-cost long-haul airline Norwegian has today announced a new permanent chief executive with the appointment of Jacob Schram. He will join the Oslo-based airline on the 1st January 2020 and replaces acting CEO Geir Karlsen, who is also the airline’s chief financial officer.
Norwegian has been on the hunt for a new chief executive since July when Bjørn Kjos, one of the carrier’s founders, suddenly stepped down from his role.
Kjos departed the airline as it’s very future looked in doubt after it racked up losses of NOK 1,454 million ($169 million) in 2018 and an even bigger loss the year before. Norwegian says a major cost reduction programme that has included assets being sold off and additional capital raised means it will have enough liquidity for at least another year.
Schram is a successful businessperson but his appointment may raise some eyebrows as he joins the airline without any prior aviation experience.
During his 30-year career, the 57-year-old Norwegian citizen has held senior management positions at the Circle K convenience store chain, Statoil Fuel & Retail, McDonalds and McKinsey. Norwegian was keen to point to Schram’s role in rebranding the Circle K brand.
Clearly up the challenge ahead, Schram said of his appointment:
“Norwegian has made aviation history and I am honored to take on the role as CEO. The airline industry is characterized by strong competition and unforeseen events, but it is also an industry that is important to people everywhere.”
“My main focus will be to bring the company back to profitability and fortify the company’s position as a strong international player within the aviation industry,” he continued.
At the end of October, Norwegian reported its best-ever quarterly results, with profit before tax improving by 38 per cent to NOK 2.2 billion compared to the same period in 2018. Despite that good news, however, Schram will be coming into his new role with in-tray overflowing with work.
Norwegian has, like many airlines, been adversely affected by the Boeing 737MAX grounding and continuing problems on its 787 Dreamliner fleet. Competition on key international routes is also heating up and Schram will no doubt be eyeing up the political situation in Argentina where the airline operates domestic services.
Geir Karlsen will return to his role as chief financial officer and will also become Norwegian’s deputy chief executive.