Norwegian’s long-serving chief executive Bjorn Kjos joked during his final results briefing today that his departure from the airline was “way overdue”.
He told analysts: “It’s my last presentation. If you think I am sorry for that, I am not, because I am way overdue.”
In his 17 years as chief executive, Kjos has transformed the company from a small regional operator to a pan-European budget airline, in particular shaking up the market for transatlantic travel with low-cost long-haul flights.
“You should not be running an airline past 70,” he later quipped. Kjos is 73.
He will remain involved with the airline as an adviser to the chairman, offering insights on route and strategy.
“As we all know, Norwegian has gone through an impressive development during the past 10 years,” chairman Niels Smedegaard told reporters. “It’s a remarkable story not least due to Bjorn’s vision and bold moves.”
Norwegian will in future focus on the performance of its network operations, cost, and a return to profitability, Smedegaard says.
Kjos states his intent to help Norwegian to build up its network, following on from its co-operation on feeder flights with EasyJet in Europe.
“We have been able to build up a network in Europe with EasyJet; we lack a network in the US, we lack a network when, and I say when, we go to the east,” he says.
Asked about the most challenging part of his time at Norwegian, Kjos points to the company’s decision to set up low-cost long-haul operations out of London, having spotted that there was a gap for budget long-haul travel.
“We needed to have success in the larger cities in Europe. Because in Scandinavia, travel is good, but it is not big enough. We are too few people to succeed in long-haul, so that was a gamble, to start up the London operation into the US.”
Once the airline felt this was going to work, that paved the way for budget long-haul flights from other European cities, including Barcelona, Madrid, Paris and Amsterdam, he notes.
Kjos also briefly references the Dreamliner battery fire issues during the period in which Norwegian was starting up its long-haul flights.