Struggling airline Norwegian Air Shuttle has today announced massive cuts to flight schedules, totaling some 85% of its regularly scheduled flights. In addition, the airline is looking to temporarily lay off some 7,300 staff, amounting to a massive 90% of its workforce. CEO Jacob Schram calls the situation “unprecedented and critical”.
Norwegian cuts almost all its flights
As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Norwegian Air Shuttle has been pulling back from some flight routes. Already it had been reported to be grounding around 40% of its long-haul fleet and to have plans in place to cancel approximately 3,000 departures up to June this year. However, today the full scale of the situation at Norwegian has become painfully clear.
Announced by the airline today, the COVID-19 pandemic means it will gradually cancel approximately 85% of its scheduled flights. The airline said that its main priority this week is to maintain as many of its flights as possible to ensure its passengers are able to return to their homes.
CEO Jacob Schram commented on the measures in a statement sent to Simple Flying, saying,
“What our industry is now facing is unprecedented and critical as we are approaching a scenario where most of our airplanes will be temporarily grounded. Several governments in Europe have already said that they will do everything they can to ensure that their airlines can continue to fly when society returns to normalcy.
“We appreciate that the authorities of Norway have communicated that they will implement all necessary measures to protect aviation in Norway, consequently securing crucial infrastructure and jobs.
“We understand that this extraordinary situation is stressful for our customers, but I want to assure everyone that we are working around the clock to ensure that everyone is taken care of in the best way possible at this time.”
Passengers are advised that they will be contacted by Norwegian if they are on an affected flight, either by email or text, so should ensure all their current contact details are up to date with the airline. Norwegian will also be working with the government of Norway to operate some special flights as necessary in order to repatriate its citizens.
Routes are expected to stay cut until at least the 17th April, but the airline has reserved the right to change this in light of new information on travel restrictions and demand.
Laying off 90% of the workforce
As a result of grounding almost all its flights, Norwegian is left with a surplus of staff. As such, the airline has announced it will be temporarily laying off a huge proportion of its employees.
In total, the airline says it will furlough some 7,300 staff members, which amounts to around 90% of the total workforce. In the announcement, the airline said these staff cuts will affect pilots, cabin crew, maintenance and administrative staff. Norwegian is already in discussions with unions and HSE representatives at its bases around its network regarding these job losses.
“It is indeed with a heavy heart we have to temporarily lay off more than 7,300 of our colleagues, but we unfortunately have no choice. However, I want to emphasize that this is temporary, because when the world returns to normalcy my goal is to keep as many of our dedicated colleagues as possible,”
Just last week, Norwegian was reported to have reached out to the government of Norway for financial support. The amount of support requested was not disclosed, but the airline stated that it needed a decision ‘within weeks, not months’ if it was to survive the current crisis.
Today’s announcement signals a poor outcome for Norwegian, but no airline can survive operating flights with barely any passengers on board. Therefore this comes as a positive step for the airline in view of its long term survival. The message to passengers from all corners remains clear – get home and stay home.