LCC Norwegian carried more than 37 million passengers in 2018, a record high.

The Norway-based carrier, which has expanded at a rapid rate in recent years and is increasingly branching out into both long-haul services as well as domestic Argentinian sectors, launched 35 new routes and took delivery of 25 new aircraft in 2018.

The LCC said that a “substantial increase of intercontinental traffic” contributed considerably to its growth. It added that the year was also notable for continued major investments, together with strong competition in the marketplace and high oil prices.

Norwegian, whose rapid growth has led to concerns among some industry analysts that it is overextending itself, has implemented a series of cost-reduction measures to boost its financial figures in 2019.

The company’s 37.34 million passengers represented an increase of 13% compared to the previous year. However, the airline's continued rapid fleet expansion means its 85.8% load factor was 1.7% lower than 2017’s figure of 87.5%.

Route expansion took place primarily between Europe and the US, although a significant new service was between London and Buenos Aires, previously a route flown solely by British Airways, as well as new domestic routes in Argentina.

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

“Continued tough competition, high oil prices and operational challenges in 2018 combined with the issues with Rolls-Royce engines, which have particularly affected our long-haul operations, 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.” 

The cost-reduction plan, #Focus 2019, aims to save NOK2 billion ($234 million) in the current year.

Alan Dron