Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air is to cut its fleet from 140 planes to 50 to focus on its short-haul European network for 2021.

The decision to cut long-haul flights marks a change in business model for the carrier, which introduced long-distance flights at short-haul equivalent prices. However the airline’s debts grew as the carrier’s network increased.

But Pilot’s union BALPA has said the loss will result in redundancy for all of the airline’s UK-based pilots – around 300 pilots and more than 1,000 staff in total will be affected.

Airline to refocus on short-haul operations

The grounding of long-haul flights due to border restrictions has forced the change of direction for Norwegian towards short haul operations serving the Nordic market. “Under these circumstances a long haul operation is not viable for Norwegian and these operations will not continue.”

The airline is set to reduce its debt to 20 billion krone (£1.7bn), and raise four to five billion krone in new capital. Norwegian has restarted talks with its government for state assistance in its restructuring plan.

The airline filed for bankruptcy protection in November after the government declined to provide further support. Norwegian’s financial plans are subject to approval in Irish court, where the carrier has sought protection from bankruptcy proceedings.

Chief executive Jacob Schram said: “Our short haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model.”

“Aviation remains in serious crisis”

But BALPA said the cuts signalled further devastating news for the air transport industry. General secretary Brian Strutton said: “This news will be personally devastating for all Gatwick-based crew. The airline has struggled in the face of the ongoing Covid crisis, despite the combined efforts of all the company’s recognised trade unions, who have worked tirelessly to remain flexible and accommodating.

“The airline has failed for several reasons but there can be no blame apportioned to the pilot, crew or other staff groups.

He added: “This is further evidence that the jobs death spiral I’ve been highlighting for months sadly continues. Make no mistake – aviation remains in serious crisis.”


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