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AIRLINE

Norwegian airline to offer free water on long flights

Budget airline Norwegian is to serve free drinking water and will accept cash payments on long-haul flights after thirsty passengers were left high and dry for up to 12 hours, it said on Wednesday.

Norwegian airline to offer free water on long flights
File photo: Aero Icarus/Flickr

The announcement followed a report on Monday of a 16-year-old who was refused a blanket on the recently launched Oslo-New York route since he had only cash and no credit card with him to pay $5 for a blanket.

Daily Aftenposten had previously written about a Thai woman whose cup of coffee was taken away after the Norwegian crew discovered she had only cash and a local credit card. She was also unable to buy food or water on the 12-hour flight.

The incidents prompted outrage in the Scandinavian country, and the budget carrier backtracked on Wednesday and said water would be free on long-haul routes and that cash payments would also be accepted.

"Of course, we're very concerned about the well-being of our passengers," company spokesman Lasse Sandaker-Nielsen told AFP.

The changes will not affect short and medium-haul routes, where the airline will continue to require credit cards on "most" flights.

Since its launch around 10 years ago, Norwegian has expanded aggressively at the expense of its main rival, ailing Scandinavian carrier SAS, which has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

Only a handful of budget airlines operate long-haul routes and passengers are sometimes surprised to discover that they have to pay for services which other carriers offer free of charge.

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BUSINESS

Scaled-down Norwegian Air exits bankruptcy protection

Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle emerged from bankruptcy protection on Wednesday following a massive restructuring that included a vast fleet reduction and dropping its long-haul business.

Scaled-down Norwegian Air exits bankruptcy protection
A Norwegian Air Shuttle Boeing 737. Alan Wilson Flickr

In financial difficulty even before the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic – which aggravated its problems further by paralysing global air traffic – Norwegian was in December placed under bankruptcy protection in Ireland, where several of its subsidiaries are based, and in Norway.

With its creditors and aircraft leasing companies, the company has negotiated a reduction of its debt and financial obligations by between 63 and 65 billion kroner (6.2-6.4 billion euros, $7.5-7.8 billion), to between 16 and 18 billion kroner.

READ ALSO: Norway taps oil wealth to cushion Covid impact

In addition, Norwegian, once Europe’s third-biggest low-cost airline, has also dropped its loss-making long-haul business, cancelled many of its aircraft orders, slashed its fleet from 156 to 51 planes, and raised six billion kroner in a new share issue.

It is also expected to have reduced its number of employees from around 10,200 at the end of 2018 to some 3,300 by the end of the restructuring, according to financial news site e24.no.

With its restructuring plan approved by Norwegian and Irish courts, the company can now emerge from bankruptcy protection.

“It’s a relief to be a normal airline again,” chief executive Jacob Schramvtold reporters at a press conference.

Norwegian said Wednesday in a statement it has liquidity of seven billion kroner.

“This war chest can keep us afloat long after summer next year,” Schram said.

“We are strong enough to cope with a total reopening of society,” he told news channel TV2 Nyhetskanalen.

But the company, which has had just nine aircraft in operation since December 2020, continues to operate at a loss.

In the first quarter, when it transported just 210,000 passengers, the company posted a pre-tax loss of 1.19 billion kroner, compared to a loss of 3.29 billion a year earlier.

Now focused on Europe and in particular the Nordic countries, Norwegian plans to have 70 aircraft in operation next year, when travel is expected to resume as the pandemic wanes.

The company’s share price, which has been highly volatile of late, was up by almost 30 percent on Oslo’s stock exchange in midday trading.

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