Norwegian Air Shuttle AS Chief Executive Officer Bjoern Kjos said he’s looking to buy more Boeing Co. 787s to add long-haul routes even as the company’s first Dreamliners remain on hold after the model was grounded.
Europe’s fourth-biggest discount carrier is starting to map out its needs beyond the eight 787-8s due by 2015, and may order the larger 787-9 as early as this year because the plane’s per-seat costs make it attractive, Kjos said.
Norwegian Air is among airlines affected by the idling of the global Dreamliner fleet on Jan. 16 in the wake of incidents with lithium-ion batteries. While Boeing has proposed a fix, it hasn’t given new delivery dates for planes the Oslo-based company should get from April, Kjos said in an interview.
“There’ll be a delay that hits us on the first two aircraft,” Kjos said. Norwegian Air has leased two Airbus SAS A340s to provide cover, one for two months, the other for three, during which time the 787s should arrive, he said.
Norwegian Air is scheduled to introduce three 787s this year, four next and the eighth in 2015, with five leased and three bought outright. The size of a follow-on order has yet to be determined, though the planes will be purchased directly and the company may seek discounts as part of delay compensation.
Kjos, who spoke in London, said the largest Dreamliner, the 787-10, is economically attractive but doesn’t offer sufficient range. Airbus SAS’s competing A350 has been ruled out because of the commitment to the Boeing jet, which was available first, he said.
In coming months, Norwegian plans to announce the next routes on which the 787 will be deployed, following on from New York, Bangkok and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Tickets have just gone on sale to the latter, with flights slated to begin in November, aided by cooperation with ship operators that use it as a base for Caribbean cruises.
Norwegian Air’s longer-term planning for the 787 will focus on destinations in Asia as it seeks to tap demand for affordable log-haul flights among the emerging middle class, Kjos said.
The carrier may press some of the single single-aisle jets it has on order into long-haul service, with the Boeing 737 Max that it’s due to take from 2017 offering sufficient range to connect Oslo with Pakistan. Norwegian last year placed an order for 100 of the re-engined Max planes, together with 100 Airbus A320neos. It now operates a fleet of 74 aircraft.