Norwegian Air’s March traffic tumbles 60% amid virus lockdown

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

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Air’s (NWC.OL) passenger volume fell by 60% year-on-year in March as the company gradually grounded its fleet amid global efforts to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus.

A pioneer in low-fare transatlantic air travel, the carrier’s rapid expansion has left it heavily in debt. It has repeatedly raised cash from shareholders in order to stay in business and its Oslo-listed shares have plunged 78% so far this year.

“The company experienced a dramatic drop in demand following government-imposed travel restrictions and a general travel decline,” the budget carrier said of its March numbers.

Norwegian has said it will cancel 85% of its flights and furlough 90% of staff while seeking financial aid from Norway’s government.

The company last month also said it would start talks with creditors on postponing payments in order to qualify for a government rescue package requiring, among other things, that debt repayments must be put on hold for the time being.

“We will provide further financial and business updates to the Oslo Bourse when it is appropriate to do so,” Chief Executive Jacob Schram said in a statement on Monday.

Before the outbreak in Europe of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Norwegian had set a goal of returning to profit this year after three years of losses.

That goal was scrapped early last month however, and Schram on March 13 said the company needed access to cash liquidity “within weeks, not months.”

Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Victoria Klesty, Kirsten Donovan

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Source: Reuters