Following the latest Airbus order sheet release, it was noticeable that Norwegian Air Shuttle had a few less planes in the backlog. In particular, five A320neos seemed to have disappeared from the books. While Norwegian has been unable to comment on this, it seems it is a result of its ongoing push to sell off its order of A320neos in a bid to remove the financial risk to the airline.
Five neos gone
In August, the Airbus order book showed 63 A320neo on order for Norwegian, alongside 30 for the A321neo. In the September orders sheet, however, Norwegian is listed as having 58 A320neo aircraft on order. The A321neo order has not been changed.
This indicates that Norwegian has removed five A320neo from its backlog with Airbus. Simple Flying has reached out to Norwegian for clarification and will update when a response is received.
The Airbus order
Norwegian has historically been an all-Boeing airline. Operating a fleet of Boeing 737-800s and a growing fleet of 787-8s and -9s (plus, or course, 18 grounded 737 MAX), the order for the A320neo was to be the airline’s first foray into Airbus territory.
Back in 2012, Norwegian placed an order for 100 A320neo aircraft with Airbus. In 2016, it converted 30 of these to A321neo LRs, destined for transatlantic operations. At the time, the airline was to become the first low-cost carrier to operate the A321LR, with the then CEO Bjorn Kjos stating he was “very excited about this new order of the A321LR”.
Both variants of the A320 family were due to start delivering this year. However, IFN News reported in April that Norwegian was to postpone delivery amid something of a cash crunch. The airline said at the time that the postponement would reduce Norwegian’s capital expenditure commitments by around $570m over 2019 and 2020.
By this point, seven A320neo had already been sold on to other airlines, taking the outstanding order down to just 63 A320 plus the 30 A321.
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Selling all the neos?
In a bid to return to profitability, Norwegian has been looking to wriggle out of its commitment for A320neo aircraft from Airbus, by selling them to other airlines. In September last year, the then CFO Geir Karlsen was quoted by Airliner Watch as saying,
“We have 90 A320neos (60 A320neo and 30 321LR) from Airbus on order. The Airbus 320neos are for all practical purposes for sale. We have started a process where we will try to find a new home for those aircraft.”
So, it seems that the five aircraft removed from the Airbus order sheet are five more that have successfully been sold on. Our guess is they have moved into the ‘undisclosed customer’ balance, with the new future owners to be revealed in due course.
Most reports seem to suggest that Norwegian will be holding on to its order for 30 A321neo LRs, at least for now. Airliner Watch suggested this would depend on traffic development in Argentina, suggesting these are now destined for the South American market rather than for transatlantic trips.
Right now, the low-cost long-haul market has never been more difficult. It’s good to see Norwegian proactively looking to drive down costs and liabilities; hopefully, we will see a return to profitability soon.