• Tom Jordan

Norwegian to resume more flights, bring back more aircraft and crew

A Norwegian B737-800 on approach to Stockholm Arlanda Airport. Photo by Adam Lanzen | AeroNewsX

Norwegian Air, one of Europe's largest budget airlines has been heavily hit by the COVID-19 crisis, suspending almost all flights and laying off thousands of staff. But today, the airline announced the beginning of its recovery, with 76 routes to be resumed and 12 more aircraft to be brought back to service as Europe begins to reopen its tourism and travel industry.

Norwegian Air began flights in 1993 as a subsidiary of Braathens, operating a fleet of Fokker 50s around Norway as regional airline. However, in 1999, Braathens was purchased by now-rival carrier SAS (Scandinavian Air System) and Norwegian's contracts were terminated forcing it to restructure as a low-cost carrier.

In April 2002, Norwegian Air announced it would begin Norwegian domestic services as a low-cost airline. This was the beginning of the airline's success story and the airline soon began expanding around Europe over the next decade, opening crew bases and establishing hubs everywhere from Warsaw, Poland to Las Palmas in the Spanish Canary Islands. By 2011, the airline's fleet had grown to 42 Boeing 737-800s and the airline soon announced its intention to begin long-haul services to Thailand and the USA.

In 2012, the airline's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner was delivered and so the first long-haul routes to Bangkok, Thailand and the USA were launched. In 2017, the airline also took delivery of its first brand-new 737 MAX aircraft. However, over the next two years the airline would be struck by a series of unfortunate events which would push Norwegian to near-breaking point. The airline's aggressive growth under CEO Bjorn Kjos, combined with the 737 MAX grounding and 787 Trent-1000 engine issues pushed the airline to near bankruptcy at the end of 2019. But under the leadership of a new CEO, the airline began restructuring in early-2020, only to be hit by the Coronavirus crisis which halted air travel in its tracks.

A Norwegian Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo by Adam Lanzen | AeroNewsX

However, after four months of operating only domestic flights throughout Norway, Norwegian today announced it would be returning services on 76 routes, as well as bringing back 12 Boeing 737s from storage, bringing its total number of active aircraft to 20. While the airline has begun resuming intra-European flights, it has not stated when its renowned Transatlantic and long-haul flights will resume. In order to staff the additional flights, more than 200 pilots and 400 cabin crew will be stood-up from the company's Norwegian bases in Oslo, Bergen, Stavanger and Trondheim.

The routes that will resume are between London-Gatwick and Oslo, London-Gatwick and Copenhagen. London-Gatwick and Copenhagen, as well as Edinburgh to Oslo and Copenhagen. Oslo will also benefit strongly from the service resumptions with flights from Oslo to Spain, Croatia, France, Poland, and the Baltic States, all to be resumed over the coming weeks.

Norwegian's CEO Jacob Schram stated that, “We’re getting back in the air with more planes and we’re reopening many of the routes which our customers have requested." He also added “The reopening of flights is the result of recent increased demand from customers and is also in line with other airlines across Europe."

Emerging from a financial rescue deal completed last-month, Norwegian Air has stated it may not be operating its full route network until 2021 and plans to return as a smaller airline with 110-120 aircraft, compared with 150 aircraft before the COVID-19 pandemic. Further service resumptions to more destinations around Europe are expected to be announced soon as more international travel restrictions are lifted around the European Union and further beyond, but will be subject to passenger demand and government travel advice.

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