Budget airline Norwegian has blamed “significant costs” including its rapid expansion, fuel price rises and leasing costs for its plunge into the red in 2017.
The carrier made a net loss of £27.4 million in the calendar year, compared to a profit of £104 million in 2016. In the final quarter of 2017, the airline lost £84 million, compared to last year’s profit of £18 million.
The carrier said “major investments” had been made in 2017 to “prepare for future growth” and blamed “significant costs related to increased fuel prices, wet lease and passenger care”.
The fourth quarter loss is despite revenue rising 30% to £716.5 million driven by the airline’s international growth plus increased traffic in the Nordic region. However, fuel costs rose 44% in this quarter and leasing costs by 52% due to the delivery of five Boeing 787s and 24 737s.
In a statement, chief executive Bjorn Kjos said: “We are not at all satisfied with the 2017 results. However, the year was also characterized by global expansion driven by new routes, high load factors and continued fleet renewal.
“Norwegian is far better positioned for 2018, with stronger bookings, a growing network of intercontinental routes complementing our vast European network and not least, a better staffing situation. Our major global expansion reaches its peak in the second half of 2018, when 32 of our 42 Dreamliners on order will have been put into service,” Kjos added.
Norwegian’s capacity rose 25% in 2017 and will rise by 32% this year as it continues its expansion. This will peak in the second half of the year, when 32 of the 42 Boeing 787 Dreamliners will be in service. Earlier this week, Kjos was in London to confirm Gatwick as the centre point of its expansion plans, hinting at more services to the US and Asia to come.
Kjos said he could have expanded at a slower pace but that slots would not be available at key airports “in two or three years”.