Norwegian boss warns airline must cut costs despite 8% passenger growth

PA

The boss of low-cost carrier Norwegian has warned it must cut costs despite recording an 8% growth in passengers last month.

Chief executive Bjorn Kjos said the airline faces tough competition and high oil prices as it enters the quieter winter months.

It carried almost 3,389,000 passengers in October, an increase of more than 240,000 compared with the same month in 2017.

Norwegian’s load factor – the average percentage of seats filled per flight- fell 2.4 percentage points to 85.0% over the same period.

The airline saw a 29% growth in capacity year-on-year, highlighting its rapid expansion.

Mr Kjos said: “We are very pleased that an increasing number of passengers choose Norwegian for their travels.

“The long-haul routes represent the largest growth this month and the demand is satisfactory.

“However, we are now entering a period of lower demand, tough competition and high oil prices, making it even more important for the company to continue reducing its costs.”

Norwegian has struggled to contain costs during its growth, and had around £2 billion of net debt at the end of last year.

The airline has invested heavily in new aircraft. It will take delivery of 11 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, 12 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and two Boeing 737-800 aircraft this year.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary predicted it would “go bust this winter”, but the Scandinavian carrier insisted his comment has “no root in reality”.

Two budget carriers – Primera Air and Cobalt Air – collapsed last month.

Aviation experts believe there will be an increase in airline consolidation in the coming months.

Icelandair has agreed to buy all shares in rival Icelandic airline WOW Air.

In April, British Airways owner IAG acquired a 5% stake in Norwegian with a view to starting takeover discussions.