International Business: Norwegian Air CEO and co-founder steps down

Marco Green
July 11, 2019

Chief financial officer, Geir Karlsen, will act as interim chief executive, as Norwegian begins the search for a replacement.

Analysts say the departure of Kjos, a former fighter pilot who led the company for 17 years, could remove a roadblock to a possible sale to a larger aviation group.

Norwegian Air teamed up with easyJet in 2017 to make its long-distance flights available to easyJet customers.

"Norwegian Air is the life's work of Bjoern Kjos so it is understandable if he had issues with a takeover".

Norwegian Air expects to be able to operate flights again in October this year with Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which are now being grounded worldwide for safety reasons.

"There is a lot of turbulence surrounding Norwegian with a lot of internal measures starting up but not finished", he said, also citing the grounding of the Boeing MAX jets.

Shares in Norwegian Air were down 5.4% at 1000 GMT in volatile trading.

"I look forward to spending more time working on specific strategic projects that are crucial to the future success of Norwegian", said Kjos.

The 72-year-old has led the organisation for 17 years, seeing it grow from a small regional airline to become one of the largest low-priced carriers in Europe.

The 737 Max fleet of jets was grounded after two crashes, the first a Lion Air flight which crashed into the sea off Jakarta past year, and the second an Ethiopian Airlines' flight which crashed shortly after take off from Addis Ababa in March.

During his tenure, the company has developed from a small domestic operation with 130 employees and four aircraft to a global low-priced airline with more than 11,000 employees and 162 aircraft.

The company, which was set up in 1993, reported second-quarter earnings that beat expectations on Thursday.

Its net profit came in at NOK82.8m (€8.5m), down from NOK300.3m (€31m) in the same period past year, but ahead of the average forecast of NOK76.2m (€7.9m) from five analysts compiled by Refinitiv.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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