Norwegian Air Shuttle Files for Bankruptcy Protection
Norwegian Air Shuttle AS A filed for bankruptcy protection for two of its core units, marking Europe’s biggest airline casualty yet from the pandemic.
The airline placed the units, including the business that owns and finances almost its entire fleet of aircraft, into examinership in Ireland, an insolvency process that allows a company to restructure its debts and assets over five months.
“Seeking protection to reorganize under Irish law is a decision that we have taken to secure the future ofNorwegianfor the benefit of our employees, customers and investors,” Norwegian Chief Executive Jacob Schram said in a statement Wednesday. “Our aim is to find solutions with our stakeholders that will allow us to emerge as a financially stronger and secure airline.”
The airline, which was formed and then spearheaded for 17 years by former fighter pilot Bjorn Kjos, upended the European budget market as it pursued an ambitious plan to offer low-cost long-haul flights across the Atlantic.
With its planes’ tail fins emblazoned with portraits of famous Norwegians, the airline became an attractive, if quirky, budget option for travel between the U.S. and Europe.
Mr. Kjos’s plan included using Boeing Co. ’s 737 MAX single-aisle jet to fly to major U.S. cities, pioneering the use of narrow-bodies on longer flights. The move triggered efforts by Europe’s three biggest long-haul operators— British Airways ’ owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA, Air France-KLM Group and Deutsche Lufthansa AG —to try to compete with Norwegian’s prices.
科斯的计划包括使用波音公司(Boeing Co.)的波音737 Max单通道喷气式飞机飞往美国主要城市，开创了窄体客机在长途飞行中的先河。此举引发了欧洲最大的三家长途航空运营商-英国航空公司(British Airways)的所有者国际联合航空集团(International Consolidated Airlines Group SA)、法航-荷航集团(Air France-KLM Group)和德国汉莎航空公司(Deutsche Lufthansa AG)-的努力，试图与挪威的价格竞争。
But Norwegian’s ambitions, which included establishing a domestic airline in Argentina, proved too wieldy and expensive. The airline was repeatedly forced to issue new capital and convert debtors into shareholders.
“People have been expecting it for a while, the long-haul low-cost business model does not work.” Alex Irving, a London-based analyst with Bernstein, said. “They tried to grow very, very, very fast, but ultimately what they were trying to do with the operation doesn’t work as a business.”
The low-cost model, which revolutionized short-haul travel in the hands of Southwest Airlines Co. in the U.S. and Ryanair Holdings PLC in Europe, hasn’t yet been proven to work on longer routes. That is mainly because it relies on putting each aircraft to work as much as possible with quick turnaround times between stops, Mr. Irving said, and that doesn’t translate to long-haul.
美国西南航空公司(Southwest Airlines Co.)和欧洲瑞安航空控股有限公司(Ryanair Holdings PLC)手中的这种低成本模式彻底改变了短途旅行，但尚未被证明在长途航线上有效。欧文说，这主要是因为它依赖于让每架飞机在两站之间快速周转的情况下尽可能多地运转，而这并不意味着长途运输。
Norwegian was also caught up in Boeing’s 737 MAX crisis. Following two deadly crashes, the plane has been grounded for 20 months, upending Norwegian’s plan to deploy the model on its trans-Atlantic network. A separate operational issue with Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC engines on the carrier’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners kept much of Norwegian’s wide-body fleet grounded. Production delays for Airbus SE’s A320neo family of jets, which rivals the MAX, also hit its plans.
挪威航空公司也卷入了波音737 MAX的危机。在经历了两次致命的坠机后，这架飞机已经停飞了20个月，这打乱了挪威在其跨大西洋网络上部署该模型的计划。罗尔斯-罗伊斯控股公司(Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC)波音787梦幻客机(Boeing 787 Dreamliner)的引擎也出现了另一个操作问题，导致挪威大部分宽体机队停飞。空客SE的A320neo系列喷气式飞机的生产延迟也影响了其计划。A320neo系列喷气式飞机是Max的竞争对手。
Before the pandemic, the airline outlined a restructuring plan that it said would have brought it back into profitability this year. The virus and impact on aviation quickly toppled that goal.
Norwegian, which is based in Oslo, said the bankruptcy-protection process gives it five months to reduce debt, off load aircraft and cancel orders, as well as secure new capital. The move comes after the Norwegian government said last week that it would not provide additional funding to secure the airline’s future.
Norwegian placed another 1,600 staff on furlough after that decision. That has left just 600 active staff, with about a half dozen aircraft operating on intra-Norway routes.
The two units placed in examinership are both based in Ireland. Arctic Aviation Assets owns and finances about 140 of the group’s approximately 160 aircraft. The other, Norwegian Air International, last year operated just over a quarter of the airline’s capacity.
The airline is expected, if it’s able to get further funding, to revert to an airline predominantly serving passengers in Norway and the Nordic region, far short of the original ambitions of its founder.