Norwegian has today outlined plans to simplify its business structure and operate “a dedicated short-haul route network”, effectively calling time on its long-haul services.

In a statement the carrier said:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly affected the entire aviation industry. Travel restrictions and changing government advice continue to negatively influence demand for long haul travel, and Norwegian’s entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet has been grounded since March 2020. Future demand remains highly uncertain.

“Under these circumstances a long haul operation is not viable for Norwegian and these operations will not continue. The consequence of this decision is that the board of directors of the legal entities employing primarily long haul staff in Italy, France, the UK and the US have contacted insolvency practitioners. Norwegian will continue to assess profitable opportunities as the world adapts and recovers from the impact of Covid-19.”

Like many carriers worldwide Norwegian was forced to temporarily cancel most of its flights in March 2020 after the onset of Covid-19.

The airline secured a £230 million bailout shortly after this, but CEO Jacob Schram recently referred to the lack of government financial support for Norwegian as “a slap in the face”.

Norwegian CEO calls lack of financial support “slap in the face”

Norwegian said that it would continue “to meet its customers’ needs by offering competitive fares across a broad range of domestic routes in Norway, across the Nordics and to key European destinations”.

The airline plans to operate around 50 narrow body aircraft in 2021, rising to 70 in 2022.

“Our short-haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model,” said Schram.

“I am pleased to present a robust business plan today, which will provide a new start for the company. By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe.

“Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible. We do not expect customer demand in the long haul sector to recover in the near future, and our focus will be on developing our short haul network as we emerge from the reorganisation process.

“It is with a heavy heart that we must accept that this will impact dedicated colleagues from across the company. I would like to thank each one of our affected colleagues for their tireless dedication and contribution to Norwegian over the years.”

Norwegian had expanded its long-haul operations rapidly between 2010 and 2017, adding numerous routes to the US and Asia.

But the carrier has been loss-making long before Covid-19, and in recent years had been forced to drop several routes, including all transatlantic services from Ireland.

Norwegian drops all transatlantic routes from Ireland

Norwegian had been awarded Heathrow slots for the summer 2020 season, but these were returned before the onset of Covid-19, with the carrier stating that they “do not fit into our network plan at this current time”.