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Norwegian Air seeks bankruptcy protection under Irish law

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Norwegian Air crew staff demonstrate in front of the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo

Norwegian Air seeks bankruptcy protection under Irish law

Norwegian Air crew staff demonstrate in front of the Norwegian Parliament in Oslo

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian Air <NORR.OL> has asked an Irish court to oversee a restructuring of its massive debt as it seeks to stave off collapse amid the coronavirus pandemic, the carrier said on Wednesday.

Norway's government on Nov. 9 rejected the airline's plea for another injection of state funds, and the company said the following day it was at risk of having to halt operations in early 2021 unless it got access to more cash.

Growing rapidly to become Europe's third-largest low-cost airline and the biggest foreign carrier serving New York and other major U.S. cities, Norwegian's debt and liabilities stood at 66.8 billion crowns (5.57 billion pounds) at the end of September.

"Norwegian has chosen an Irish process since its aircraft assets are held in Ireland," the company said in a statement.

"Based on Norwegian's current cash position and the projections going forward, the company believes it has sufficient liquidity to go through the above-mentioned process," it said.

Before the pandemic, Norwegian Air helped transform transatlantic travel, expanding the European budget airline business model to longer-haul destinations, making basic flights cheaper for those prepared to go without frills.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Gwladys Fouche)