The embattled low-cost airline Norwegian announced on Thursday that it will abandon its long-haul business as it struggles to survive amidst the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent years, the Oslo-based airline opened long-haul routes from London Gatwick, Paris, Rome and Barcelona to destinations across the United States, as well as Thailand and Argentina.
Thousands of jobs are now on the line after Norwegian’s chief executive Jacob Schram revealed radical plans to drop all long-haul flying and focus on its European and Nordic short-haul business. More than 1,000 cabin crew and pilots based at London Gatwick face being made redundant, along with a similar number at Norwegian’s bases across Europe and the United States.
“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,” Schram said on Thursday.
“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,” he continued.
Last December, Norwegian announced plans to sell some of its planes in order to shore up its finances and avoid bankruptcy. It’s now known that the airline will seek to offload its entire fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
It’s 32-strong fleet of Dreamliners have been grounded since March 2020 after the pandemic decimated the demand for long-haul air travel and they will never fly again for Norwegian.
Schram also announced plans to sell around 36 single-aisle Boeing 737 jets with plans to operate just 50 narrow-body aircraft in 2021. By 2022, Norwegian hopes to increase that number to 70 planes.
Norwegian looked to be on the brink of collapse in November when the government in Oslo refused to bail out the debt-laden airline for a second time. Norwegian slashed its workforce by 94 per cent in a bid to stay afloat and sought help from investors yet again.
The airline has pursued bankruptcy protection in Ireland and Norway while it works on its new business plan. Many employees have been supported through government schemes designed to protect jobs through the pandemic but the agencies that employed these workers will now be closed down.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.