Norwegian Air Focuses on Long-Haul Growth as A320Neos Delayed

  • Discount carrier seeking `maximum flexibility' for 787 fleet
  • Short-haul deliveries crimped as A320Neos delayed, Kjos says

Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA is seeking U.S. backing for an expansion of its U.K.-based long-haul operations that would allow the discount carrier to offer services such as South Africa to New York via London.

A successful outcome following an application to the U.S. Department of Transportation could lead Norwegian Air to exercise an option to buy 10 more Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner wide-body jets, swelling the fleet in service or on order to 50, Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Kjos said in an interview Thursday.

While Norwegian can fly from Britain to certain cities in the Americas, Africa and Asia under a U.K. air operators certificate granted last year, that doesn’t include U.S. routes. A foreign-carrier permit is therefore being sought from the DOT that would provide “maximum flexibility,” including flights such as Cape Town or Johannesburg to the U.S. via the carrier’s London Gatwick hub.

Prospects for approval seemingly improved April 15 when, in a separate case, the DoJ granted tentative rights for Norwegian Air to serve the U.S. with an Irish arm, Kjos said. While the company already operates Gatwick-U.S. flights, it does so under a Norwegian AOC that doesn’t include U.K. bilateral rights.

Neo Delay

Deliveries of short-haul Airbus Group SE A320neo aircraft ordered by Norwegian Air have meanwhile fallen victim to glitches with Pratt & Whitney engines that power them, with a few aircraft set to suffer a delay of some weeks, Kjos said.

Norwegian Air is due to take four Neos this year, all of which it has arranged to lease to Hong Kong Express Airways Ltd., followed by eight in 2017. All told the carrier has 100 on order, making it one of the biggest customers for the model.

Norwegian reported a pretax loss of 992 million kroner ($123 million) in the first quarter ended March 31, compared with 528 million kroner a year earlier, amid losses from currency swings and jet-fuel hedging, it said in a statement.

Shares of the Fornebu-based company closed down 5.9 percent lower at 351.20 kroner in Oslo, their biggest drop in three months.

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