UK

Norwegian Air to axe 1,100 Gatwick-based pilots and cabin crew

More than 1,000 workers at Gatwick Airport are to lose their jobs as Norwegian Air axes its long-haul operation. 

The cash-strapped carrier has announced it is abandoning long-haul flights, many of which fly out of the airport in Crawley, West Sussex. 

The move will lead to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.  

The low cost transatlantic airline has faced a battle for survival after being badly hit by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The cash-strapped carrier has announced it is abandoning long-haul flights, many of which fly out of the airport in Crawley, West Sussex

How coronavirus crushed UK airlines and travel operators 

Flybe: Europe’s largest regional airline collapsed on March 5 after months on the brink, triggering 2,400 job losses and left around 15,000 passengers stranded across the UK and Europe. 

British Airways: The boss of BA owner IAG demanded ministers set up airport testing after the group swung to a £5.6bn loss. The company, which also owns Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling, lost the equivalent of £900,000 an hour during the first nine months of 2020. 

Jet2: Reported operating losses of £111.2m for the six months to September 30, against earnings of £361.5m a year earlier.

Virgin Atlantic: In September Virgin Atlantic said it could axe a further 1,150 jobs from across the company taking the total number of job losses to 4,700 during the crisis. It also urged the Government to offer carriers emergency credit facilities worth up to £7.5billion.

Ryanair: Reported a loss of 197m euro (£178m) in the first half of 2020, with 99 per cent of it’s fleet grounded for almost four months. Traffic in the first half of the year fell from 86million to 17million passengers compared with the same period last year, and revenue dropped 78 per cent to 1.18billion euros (£1.06billion).

TUI: Posted a bottom-line net loss of 1.42 billion euros (£1.3 billion) in the period from April to June.

Easyjet: Crisis saw it crash to an annual loss of £1.27billion – the first in its 25-year history – but the prospect of a vaccine has led to a spike in sales over the past fortnight.

Heathrow: Heathrow’s Terminal 4 will remain closed throughout this year as demand for air travel struggles to recover.

The west London airport made the announcement at the end of 2020 as it said passenger numbers for November were down 88per cent compared with the same month last year.

At the end of October, Heathrow lost its status as Europe’s busiest airport as it recorded a loss of £1.5billion in the first nine months of the year due to Covid-19.

Passenger numbers between July and September were down by more than 84 per cent compared with the same period in 2019, leading the west London hub to be overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle as the busiest in Europe.  

The carrier announced that it was to close its long-haul operation and focus on a scaled-down European business model. 

At the end of last year, the Oslo-based carrier grounded all but six of its 154-strong fleet, and furloughed 1,600 more staff, keeping on just 600 of its 10,000 workers.

Around 2,160 jobs will be lost around the world – including at Gatwick – as the firm also has long-haul bases in France, Italy, Spain and the US.  

Norwegian shook up the UK’s long-haul aviation market in recent years by offering transatlantic flights at knockdown prices.

Some of its most popular deals included £99 trips to New York.

But it struggled to contain costs during its rapid expansion, and has come under further strain due to the virus crisis.

Its entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet has been grounded since March 2020.

In August 2020, the airline announced that it would need more financial support to get through the pandemic, after reporting a loss of £442 million for the first six months of the year.

Under its new plan, it will only fly within Norway, across the Nordic region and to ‘key European destinations’.

If approved, the proposal would cut Norwegian’s fleet to about 50 aircraft from the existing 140.

It then aims to expand again, to around 70 in 2022. 

Norwegian said it had restarted talks with the government about possible aid for its restructuring. 

The plan, which is subject to approval by an Irish bankruptcy court, is part of budget carrier Norwegian’s attempts to contend with the coronavirus crisis and complete a debt restructuring.  

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.

‘I am pleased to present a robust business plan today, which will provide a new start for the company.

‘By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe.

‘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.’ 

Mr Schram continued: ‘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.’ 

More than 1,000 pilots and cabin crew working at Gatwick were told that they have lost their jobs

More than 1,000 pilots and cabin crew working at Gatwick were told that they have lost their jobs

Like other airlines, its fleet is now mostly grounded as the pandemic has caused a near-total halt to global travel.

Customers with affected bookings will be contacted by the airline and refunded.

It said on Thursday that it has resumed talks with the Norwegian government about further state support.

A Gatwick spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of Norwegian’s plans to concentrate on their European network going forward, and we expect Gatwick will remain an important part of their plans for this. We have an excellent relationship with Norwegian and their routes from Gatwick have always been popular.

‘The demand for slots at Gatwick – both long and short-haul – remains very strong. We will continue to pursue new opportunities with Norwegian and other airlines to offer passengers a variety of choice for their 2021 future travel plans.’

Norwegian Air’s rise and battle for survival 

Having grown rapidly to become Europe’s third-largest low-cost airline and one of the few to apply the budget model to transatlantic flights, Norwegian Air is fighting for its survival again after the Oslo government on Monday ruled out further support.

Following are key dates in the company’s 27-year history.

2020

Aug. 28: Norwegian Air says it will need to secure funding this year for the next 18 months or more to see it through the COVID-19 pandemic after reporting first-half losses of $610 million.

May 18: Norwegian Air completes a cut-price share sale and wins bondholders’ backing for a refinancing, allowing it to continue operating with a slimmed-down schedule.

March 24: The airline receives an initial government cash injection of 300 million Norwegian crowns ($29 million).

March 16: Norwegian says it is cancelling 85% of its flights and temporarily laying off 7,300 employees because of the coronavirus outbreak.

March 5: Company scraps its 2020 earnings guidance and cancels some of its transatlantic flights.

Feb. 13: Norwegian says it will make deeper capacity cuts in 2020 than previously announced as it aims to return to profit after three consecutive years of losses.

2019

Nov. 20: Appoints Jacob Schram as CEO. Schram, who does not have a background in aviation, had worked for consulting company McKinsey among previous roles.

Nov. 5: Raises 2.5 billion Norwegian crowns to meet its cash needs through 2020 with its third share sale in two years and a bond issue.

Sept. 16: Norwegian’s bondholders accept the company’s plea to postpone repayment of $380 million by up to two years. Aug. 19: Agrees to sell its stake in banking company Norwegian Finans Holding for 2.22 billion crowns.

July 11: Co-founder Bjoern Kjos steps down as CEO.

April 10: Norwegian postpones Airbus plane deliveries scheduled for 2019 and 2020, cutting its capital spending by $570 million.

March 12: Norwegian grounds its Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets after a fatal crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX.

Feb. 18-19: Norwegian announces deep-discount share issue at only a third of the market price.

Jan. 24: International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG), the owner of British Airways, says it will not make a bid for Norwegian and will sell its stake in the company.

2018

May 4: Board confirms that it has received two separate conditional proposals from IAG Group in relation to an acquisition of 100% of its share capital.

April 12: Norwegian is notified that IAG has acquired 4.6% of the shares in the company.

March 21:

Norwegian raises 1.3 billion crowns in a share sale to help to fund its expansion and cope with higher fuel costs after warning of a larger than expected loss in the quarter.

2017

July 17: Norwegian’s first flight using the Boeing 737 MAX takes off from Edinburgh.

2015

Oct. 22: Norwegian orders 19 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, more than quadrupling its long-haul fleet.

2013

May 30: Norwegian’s first intercontinental flight departs from Oslo to New York.

2012

Jan. 25: Norwegian orders 122 planes from Boeing, 100 of which are Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets. The airline also enters agreement with Airbus about buying 100 Airbus A320neo jets. In total, the planes are worth 127 billion Norwegian crowns.

2011

Feb. 8: Norwegian becomes the first airline to offer free WiFi on European flights.

2007

April 24: Norwegian buys FlyNordic from Finnair and becomes the biggest low-cost airline in Scandinavia.

2003

Dec. 18: Norwegian shares are listed on Oslo Stock Exchange.

2002

Sept. 1: Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) rebrands as Norwegian and starts operating with Boeing 737-300 planes.

1993

Jan. 22: Norwegian Air Shuttle is founded and takes over regional airline services on Norway’s West Coast. Flights are operated in cooperation with Norwegian airline Braathens. NAS initially operates with a fleet of three leased Fokker 50. ($1 = 9.4785 Norwegian crowns)


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