Norwegian Air won’t survive the winter without state aid, the carrier has told the Norwegian government as it joined rivals SAS and short-haul carrier Wideroe in pleas for direct cash support.
Cash-strapped Norwegian Air has been brought low after flying into the Covid crisis with unmanageable debts.
The carrier has slashed its operation and, with the bulk of its fleet and all long-haul aircraft grounded, reverted to being solely a Norwegian airline.
Representatives of Norwegian, SAS and Wideroe have held separate meetings with Norwegian government officials in the past week after jointly calling for a bail out on September 11, when Norwegian Air chief executive Jacob Schram revealed: “We don’t have the financial muscle to get through the winter.”
Schram insisted: “The state is an important part of the solution. We need everything we can get.”
The three carriers have asked Norway’s government to provide $1.5 billion in state aid to cover revenue losses this year and next.
The government has made NOK6 billion ($665 million) in loan guarantees available to the airlines, but half this amount remains unused.
Norwegian Air has drawn about NOK3 billion in guarantees. But Schram said this “is not enough to get through this crisis”.
Torbjorn Lothe, head of the Norwegian Aviation Federation, said: “This has become a crisis we can’t borrow our way out of.”
It has been reported Norwegian Air could be nationalised. However, trade minister Iselin Nybo said: “We have not had that type of discussion because we presented the guarantee facility in the spring.
“The state has been a shareholder in SAS and chose to sell out before this situation.”
She insisted: “I am concerned not to exclude anything, [but] also not to create any expectations.”
Norwegian Air only avoided insolvency in May by securing the state-backed loan.
However, the carrier has drawn criticism in Norway after it was revealed the airline paid bonuses of up to NOK6 million to four members of management last year despite huge losses.
It started this year with debts in excess of €6 billion.
Norwegian made fresh progress on converting some of its outstanding debt into bonds and, subsequently, shares this week.
It announced agreements to convert almost $20 million in debt into bonds and said: “The company is continuing to work with repayment plans and possible further conversion of debt to equity.”
The carrier had a second piece of positive news when a court in California rejected a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of thousands of claimants for delays to refunds for flights cancelled due to Covid-19.
A federal judge in the Central District of California dismissed the class action brought for breach of contract.
It found the airline’s contractual obligation “was discharged because performance was rendered impracticable by the [coronavirus] travel ban”.
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