Photo: Joe G Walker

LONDON – Norwegian logged its “highest ever passenger figures in a single year” in 2018, moving 37.34 million passengers—an increase of 13% compared to the previous year.

According to Norwegian, 2018 “was characterized by major investments, strong competition, and a high oil price”.

Last year saw the airline receive 25 new planes and launch up to 35 new routes, which were mainly between Europe and the US.

Photo: Joe G Walker

Also, South America became a newly welcomed destination, together with the opening of Norwegian Air Argentina, which launched flights in October between Buenos Aires and Cordoba. Argentina became the sixth domestic market in the Norwegian Group’s network.

This expansion also added 2,000 jobs across the globe as the carrier continues to position itself for further growth.

In terms of rewards, the carrier won two SkyTrax Awards, being “Europe’s Best Low-Cost Carrier” for the sixth year in a row, and the “World’s Best Low-Cost Long-Haul Airline” for the fourth year in a row.

Norwegian’s CEO Bjorn Kjos gave members of the press significant details into how 2018 has gone and what will be in store for the airline in 2019.

“The 2018 traffic figures demonstrate that our international footprint continues to grow stronger, in line with the Norwegian Group’s strategy,” he said.

“The company has made considerable investments this year and will now enter a period of slower growth. We have adjusted and optimized our route portfolio and the capacity going forward. We have also made seasonal adjustments for the winter,” Kjos said.

The CEO admitted that competition has been tough, together with higher oil prices and more operational challenges with the Rolls-Royce engine woes that crippled the carrier’s Boeing 787 dispatch reliability.

PHOTO: Juraj Patekar.

“These have had an impact on our financial results in the latter half of 2018,” Kjos said.

“We have launched a series of cost-reduction measures to boost our financials in 2019 which will have an immediate and continued positive influence throughout the year,” he explained. 

The carrier also listed its monthly passenger numbers for December 2018, which was recorded at 2,402,005—a 15% increase over December 2017, with load factors being at 78.6%.

Norwegian operated 99.1% of its flights in December, of which 75.7% of them departed on time.

Going into 2019, the carrier will be hedging fuel. The airline has an “unrealized loss” on such hedging, but added that it is “well positioned when compared to other airlines, in regards to fuel hedging.”

In 2018, the airline’s load factors dipped from 87.5% to 85.8%. The decrease may have been offset by increased competition on some routes, together with added capacity with the delivery of larger planes.

The Norwegian 737-8MAX cabin

Norwegian still hasn’t said much compared to the likes of Ryanair regarding the impact of BREXIT, potentially meaning it is not concerned at this time.

Only time will tell what will happen when the UK does depart from the EU, although having the UK Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) under its belt might prove to be handy.