Norwegian Air Shuttle last week ordered USD$21.5 billion worth of new planes at list prices, one of Europe's biggest ever aircraft orders . Norwegian Air Shuttle chief Bjoern Kjos said he saw the airline expanding into Asia with the creation of new bases there.
"I think there will be lots of opportunities in Europe in 2012 because there are too many airlines that have way too old fleets to be profitable with the oil prices of today," said Kjos, a former fighter pilot and mystery novel writer. "I think you will see airlines collapsing, high costs and old planes are a dangerous mix," he added.
"Not buying new planes would be taking the risk," Kjos said. "You benefit from the 12 to 15 percent lower fuel burn. There is no way you can fly an old airplane in the future given where fuel prices are going."
He said Norwegian, which is set to receive its first wide-body Boeing 787 Dreamliner next year, will base the aircraft in Asia, the world's fastest-growing major market, to bring Asian passengers to Europe.
Norwegian has six 787s on order but says it could buy dozens more to expand its long-haul operations with particular focus on Asia.
Kjos said the 787 and the Airbus A350, set to enter service in 2014, both offered the economics to make the low-cost model work and budget airlines would now expand into long-haul routes.
Norwegian's expansion to over 220 aircraft would put it in the same league as Ryanair, which operates about 275 aircraft.
Kjos added that Norwegian would not take over failing airlines but would jump into any vacuum that served its Northern European market, as it is already doing in Malaga, Spain.
"We are strong in the northern region and that's where we'll concentrate on. I think central Europe is very much covered," Kjos said.
Rishworth Aviation, one of the world’s leading aviation crew leasing agencies has partnered Norwegian since 2004. Europe Regional Director Torkel Waak said ”We are delighted to assist Norwegian Air achieve their exciting growth plans. It will offer great opportunities for pilots to further their flying careers.”