Norway’s largest airline, Norwegian Air Shuttle, is starting to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic as travel restrictions begin to ease around Europe. Norwegian’s traffic figures for September show a continued increase in the number of people wanting to fly, with demand strengthening accross the airlines’ entire network.
In a statement released today, the fourth largest low-cost carrier in Europe said that traditional booking patterns for flights are returning to how they were pre-Covid-19. The Fornebu-headquartered airline said people are looking ahead and booking flights to popular weekend city break and winter sun destinations.
Demand is steadily growing as confidence returns
When speaking about the returning passenger numbers in the company statement Norwegian CEO Geir Karlsen said:
“We are pleased to be able to report for the fifth consecutive month a continued positive increase in passenger numbers. Demand is steadily growing across all our markets, and bookings to our key European destinations are showing that our customers are regaining confidence in the travel sector and are now planning their future journeys well in advance.”
In a PDF attached to the company statement Norwegian provided the following figures to back up its claims when comparing 2020s September numbers with the same period this year:
- Norwegian carried 977,719 passengers, an increase of 206% compared to the same period in 2020
- The total capacity (ASK) has increased by 154%
- Passenger traffic (RPK) was up 248%
- Load factor in September was 72.4% an increase of 20 percentage points compared with last year
“More people are choosing to travel with Norwegian every month due to our focused route network, good value fares, modern fuel-efficient aircraft and our onboard experience. We look forward to welcoming an increasing number of passengers over the coming months.” Continued Karlsen.
During September, Norwegian operated an average of 46 aircraft of which 92.1% departed on time. Norwegian also ramped up operations by reopening its Norwegian bases at the following airports:
- Bergen Flesland Airport (BGO)
- Stavanger Airport, Sola (SVG)
- Trondheim Airport, Værnes (TRD)
Norwegian was financially overstretched
Like all airlines, Norwegian was battered by the crisis brought about by the pandemic. However, in Norwegian’s case, it was already in trouble before the medical emergency had begun. In February of 2017, due to its rapid growth strategy and new routes to long-haul destinations, Norwegian had overtaken SAS to become Scandinavia’s largest airline. To finance the rapid growth, Norwegian sold some of its shares in Bank Norwegian and began selling and leasing the aircraft it owned. Norwegian also started taking delivery of new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and was hurt by the impact caused when the plane was grounded.
Norwegian is now solely focused on Europe
Now financially overstretched and in debt, up to its eyeballs, Norwegian needed to develop a new strategy if it hoped to survive. After having closed bases and reducing its fleet size, Norwegian announced in January 2021 that it was ending all long-haul services to focus on a resized European route network.
Looking at Norwegian’s September numbers will give other airlines hope that the recovery in aviation is underway. Having said that, we have to remember that Norwegian is a low-cost carrier and not a full-service airline serving destinations where restrictions to travel remain in place.
What do you think of Norwegian’s optimistic outlook that a recovery is underway? Please tell us your thoughts in the comments.