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Yesterday, the Norwegian government confirmed that there would be no further financial aid offered to Norwegian despite the pleas of the airline’s CEO, and now we’re getting news that the airline has furloughed the vast majority of its employees leaving it with little more than a skeleton workforce. The situation at Norwegian has never looked so bleak.
Following the news that there would be no more state aid from the government, Norwegian has now announced that it has been forced to reduce its operating fleet down to just 6 aircraft (the airline has been operating 21 aircraft during the past couple of months), that it will be furloughing 1,600 more employees, and that it will be operating just 12 routes (all of which will be domestic routes within Norway).
Here’s the latest statement from Norwegian CEO Jacob Schram:
“Following today’s disappointing announcement from the government, we have no choice but to furlough an additional 1,600 colleagues and park 15 of the 21 aircraft we’ve operated the past months. Recently government-imposed travel restrictions have effectively stifled any hope of a stable and progressive recovery, Norwegian has been hit from all sides by factors outside of our control. This is a sad day for everyone at Norwegian and I sincerely apologise to all our colleagues that are now affected, but there is no other alternative. Prior to Covid-19, Norwegian employed more than 10,000 people, but the coming months there will be only 600 colleagues employed. Our goal is to keep six aircraft on domestic routes in Norway, and I expect that Norwegian will also receive route support from the Ministry of Transportation, as previously announced.”
The only routes that Norwegian will now operate are as follows:
- Oslo – Alta
- Oslo – Bergen
- Oslo – Bodø
- Oslo – Evenes
- Oslo – Haugesund
- Oslo – Kirkenes
- Oslo – Molde
- Oslo – Stavanger
- Oslo – Tromsø
- Oslo – Trondheim
- Oslo – Ålesund
- Tromsø – Longyearbyen
Schram confirmed that, unsurprisingly, a significant number of customers will be affected by the staff reductions and the route cuts but that the airline “will do everything [it] can to offer affected customers alternative travel option” and that it will be contacting all affected customers directly.
It gives me absolutely no pleasure to write this as I’m extremely fond of Norwegian but what we are seeing now is almost certainly the airline entering its final weeks and days in existence. I cannot see any way back for Norwegian.
The airline is now operating just 6 aircraft, it’s employing just 6% of its pre-crisis workforce and it doesn’t appear to have anywhere left to go for the funding it so badly needs to stay alive. Any resurgence from here would be nothing short of miraculous and would depend on the airline finding one or more backers that are prepared to set light to a significant sum of money. Where do you find backers like that during a worldwide crisis?
A little worryingly, it still appears to be possible to book flights on Norwegian for travel into 2021 (long haul and short-haul routes), so there may be people (people who are not aware of the airline’s precarious situation) who are handing over money for flights that, as things stand, appear to have little chance of taking place.
I’m not about to advise readers not to book any flights with Norwegian as there’s probably at least one over-zealous lawyer reading this who would somehow find a way to make this a legal issue. Instead, I’ll just say this: Personally speaking, I would be incredibly reluctant to book any flights with Norwegian because I have no faith that the airline will be around to fly me to my destination when my travel dates come around. That’s just my opinion. It’s up to everyone else to make up their own minds based on the evidence on offer.
Times were challenging enough for Norwegian before the world went into turmoil so the global pandemic was just one issue too far for the airline. It put up a good flight and lasted longer than most people expected, but this is almost certainly the end of the road.