Belfast Telegraph

Norwegian fleet expanding by 'crazy number' says airline's sales chief

Low-cost airline Norwegian is "on the cusp" of growing too fast, one of its bosses has admitted.

Head of sales in the UK and Ireland Dominic Tucker said the carrier was increasing the size of its fleet by " a crazy number".

But he insisted the firm had a " strong cash flow" and was profitable.

Concerns have been raised about the future of Norwegian due to its policy of rapid expansion.

The airline, whose route network includes London Gatwick, Belfast, Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh, has around 130 aircraft and more than 260 on order.

Norwegian serves more than 1 50 destinations in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, Thailand, the Caribbean and the US, with a policy of offering low fares based on its "lean organisation and fuel-efficient aircraft".

But R yanair boss Michael O'Leary claimed in September that " Norwegian will go in four or five months" as it is "running out of cash".

Mr Tucker was questioned about the airline's growth strategy at the annual convention of travel trade organisation Abta in the Azores, Portugal.

Asked if Norwegian is growing too fast, he replied: " If I'm honest we're probably on the cusp. It's really hard as an airline when we have lots of planes because we want to put those planes into service as soon as possible.

"You just have to get organised."

Mr Tucker accepted that taking delivery of 19 new aircraft this year was "a crazy number which we're managing to juggle".

He said the airline was "having to guess" where it should fly because it lacked the historical data of long-established rivals.

After 140 pilots were said to have moved from Ryanair to Norwegian, Mr O'Leary reportedly wrote to his remaining flight crew last week, urging them not to join airlines that were "less financially secure" and "Brexit-challenged".

Mr Tucker claimed there was "no real basis for his comments", insisting that Norwegian was "less Brexit-challenged than they are".

He said: "From a financial point, given that 140 of their pilots did come over to us, I would say we've had 10 years of profitability as an airline.

"We've got a strong cash flow. There's no real basis for his comments."

Mr Tucker also dismissed any comparison to failed airline Monarch, saying it had a "very different" business model.

Mr O'Leary has previously warned that flights between the UK and the EU will be grounded in summer 2019 if no agreement on aviation is reached as part of the Brexit negotiations by September next year.

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