Monday 27 April 2020 12:07 pm

Norwegian Air says planes set to remain grounded until April 2021

Low-cost carrier Norwegian Air does not expect to begin ramping up its number of flights until next April at the earliest, according to a proposal published ahead of a key stakeholder meeting this week.

Unless the airline gets approval for its proposed rescue plan, it warned that it could run out of cash by mid-May.

Read more: Airlines call on government to extend furlough scheme beyond June

In order to access government loans worth up to 2.7bn crowns (£210m), Norwegian has proposed a debt-to-equity swap which would hand majority ownership to the firm’s lessors.

Bondholders would be left with 41.7 per cent of the company, and shareholders just 5.1 per cent. 

Currently, the airline has grounded 95 per cent of its fleet and has only seven planes in operation on domestic routes.

According to its proposal, these minimal operations will continue until April 2021, before a gradual increase in services.

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For both European short-haul and global long-haul flights, operations will remain grounded, subject to travel restrictions, until the same date.

Norwegian is targeting a return to normal operations by January 2021.

Although recent years had seen Norwegian rapidly expand into one of Europe’s largest low-cost carriers, it also acquired a debt pile of nearly $8bn due to the pace of its growth.

Its cash shortage is one of the principal reasons why many analysts had tipped the airline for failure in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

Read more: Virgin Atlantic says it is still in talks with UK over bailout

Last month the Norwegian government threw the embattled flyer a lifeline with the offer of a 3bn crown rescue package, subject to the airline raising new equity. 

In a presentation to investors, the airline said it is “critical to get access to the state aid package by mid-May before the company runs out of cash”.

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