Norwegian Air hopeful of travel rebound but keeps cautious stance

FILE PHOTO: A Norwegian Air plane is refuelled at Oslo Gardermoen airport, Norway November 7, 2019.REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Air forecast its bookings will rise in the months ahead as European travel resumes with the lifting of COVID-19 curbs, but the budget carrier refrained from providing financial outlook for 2021, citing uncertainty.

The company, which has cut its fleet by two-thirds following the outbreak of the pandemic, reported on Tuesday revenue of 591 million Norwegian crowns ($68.3 million) for the first half of 2021, down from 7.1 billion crowns in the year-ago period.

The airline emerged from government-backed bankruptcy proceedings in May and saw the number of passengers jump in July, although the volume was still less than a fifth of those flown at the same time two years ago.

“Forward bookings continue to increase in response to the relaxation of travel restrictions and the roll out of international vaccination programmes,” Chief Executive Geir Karlsen said in a statement.

“We expect to see this trend continue in the remaining months in 2021 and through 2022,” he added.

The current fleet of 51 aircraft will likely be fully utilised by the end of the year, up from less than 10 jets flown during April and May, the company said, adding that it aims to expand to between 60 and 70 planes next year.

Norwegian’s debt was reduced by around 80% during reconstruction as creditors took control, but the company also faces fresh competition from upstart carrier Flyr on domestic routes in Norway and some foreign destinations.

“Given the continuous uncertainty and ongoing impact on overall demand for air travel due to COVID-19, Norwegian does not provide guidance for 2021,” the board said.

($1 = 8.6535 Norwegian crowns)

Editing by Gwladys Fouche and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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