Bjorn Kjos quits as Norwegian Air Shuttle CEO after 17 years in top job

The boss of low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle has stepped down from his role, the company has announced.

Former fighter pilot Bjorn Kjos, 72, was one of the founders of the carrier and held the position of chief executive for 17 years.

He will continue to work for the airline in a new position advising the chairman.

During his tenure, Norwegian has developed from a small, domestic operation with four planes to a global business flying 162 aircraft.

Bjorn Kjos co-founded Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norwegian/PA)
Bjorn Kjos co-founded Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norwegian/PA)

The airline has shaken up the long-haul aviation market in recent years by offering flights at knockdown prices.

Some of its most popular deals have included £99 transatlantic flights to New York.

The airline has struggled to contain costs during its growth, and had to raise three billion Norwegian crowns (£280 million) earlier this year.

It says it changed its strategy “from growth to profitability” in 2018.

Mr Kjos said: “I am confident that the board of directors will find the best qualified successor to lead the next chapters of the Norwegian story together with the top management team.

“Leaving the exciting future tasks to a new CEO and taking on a new challenge as an adviser is a set-up I am very happy with.

“I look forward to spending more time working on specific strategic projects that are crucial to the future success of Norwegian.”

Chief financial officer Geir Karlsen will act as interim chief executive until a replacement for Mr Kjos is appointed.

Chairman Niels Smedegaard will also take on a more active role in the airline’s management.

Mr Smedegaard said: “Bjorn has played an unprecedented role in Norwegian’s success.

“His vision of offering affordable fares for all, combined with his enthusiasm and innovating spirit, has revolutionised the way people travel for pleasure and for business, not least between the continents.

“Bjorn is definitely one of the most influential European entrepreneurs of our time.”

He added: “As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, it will be an advantage for the company to benefit from Bjorn’s extensive network, in-depth knowledge of and experience with global aviation.”