Norse Atlantic to Use Norwegian Air Planes With Fresh Paint Job

Norse Atlantic Airways is copying more than just the long-haul playbook of insolvent discounter Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA. It’s using the carrier’s old planes.

The startup airline has agreed to lease nine Boeing Co. 787 jets formerly used by Norwegian, Norse Chief Executive Officer Bjorn Tore Larsen said in an interview. The new company, which announced Monday that it plans to start flying in December, will change the paint job but otherwise leave the layout intact, he said.

Using the same planes underscores the degree to which Norse’s founding executives -- all with ties to Norwegian -- plan to duplicate the low-cost, trans-Atlantic strategy that proved competitive but generated too much debt. Larsen says he believes Norwegian’s business model was sound, and the carrier was instead brought down by engine issues and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Norse has begun recruiting pilots and cabin crew through OSM Aviation, Larsen’s previous venture that also supplied flight personnel to Norwegian. It is in discussions about gaining airport slots, and London’s Gatwick airport -- a former hub for Norwegian -- is high on the list.

Larsen says that while the carrier is planning to begin flying this year, the launch is dependent on both the end of travel restrictions and the return of demand. Norse has the flexibility to delay a start to 2022, should another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic trigger a setback for the industry.

Fleet Troubles

Norwegian’s rapid growth fueled a debt binge as the carrier splurged on both new aircraft and routes. The airline, whose founder Bjorn Kjos is a backer of Norse, also struggled with its fleet, and was at one point forced to charter replacement aircraft due to faults with Rolls Royce Holdings Plc engines.

Norse says Boeing and Rolls Royce have assured the new carrier the issues have been resolved. The startup claims it will have the lowest costs in the industry, largely due to the fuel efficiency of its aircraft and attractive lease terms, while its lack of debt during the worst aviation crisis in history is also an advantage.

Low-cost, long-haul operators have particularly struggled during the Covid-19 pandemic. British Airways parent IAG SA, which once made a bid for Norwegian, has shut down its Paris-based OpenSkies unit, while AirAsia Group Bhd.’s long-haul budget arm AirAsia X is in caught up in a restructuring process.

Norse Atlantic will serve only profitable routes, it says, linking destinations such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, London, Paris and Oslo. Services to Asia could follow at a later date.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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