Budget airline Norwegian has axed its long-haul network, leading to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.
The carrier said it will operate a “simplified business structure and dedicated short-haul route network” after being badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Norwegian shook up the UK’s long-haul aviation market in recent years by offering transatlantic flights at knockdown prices.
Some of its most popular deals included £99 trips to New York.
But it struggled to contain costs during its rapid expansion, and has come under further strain due to the virus crisis.
Its entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet has been grounded since March 2020.
In August 2020, the airline announced that it would need more financial support to get through the pandemic, after reporting a loss of £442 million for the first six months of the year.
Under its new plan, it will only fly within Norway, across the Nordic region and to “key European destinations”.
Chief executive Jacob Schram said: “Our short-haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model.
“I am pleased to present a robust business plan today, which will provide a new start for the company.
“By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe.
“Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible.
“We do not expect customer demand in the long-haul sector to recover in the near future, and our focus will be on developing our short-haul network as we emerge from the reorganisation process.”
Around 2,160 jobs will be lost around the world – including at Gatwick – as the firm also has long-haul bases in France, Italy, Spain and the US.
Mr Schram continued: “It is with a heavy heart that we must accept that this will impact dedicated colleagues from across the company.
We have been advised that Norwegian Air plans to close its long-haul operation and that its UK-based pilots will be made redundant. Around 300 pilots and more than 1,000 staff in total will be affected.https://t.co/VgZhZ0XEsi
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) January 14, 2021
“I would like to thank each one of our affected colleagues for their tireless dedication and contribution to Norwegian over the years.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “This news will be personally devastating for all Gatwick-based crew.
“The airline has struggled in the face of the ongoing Covid crisis, despite the combined efforts of all the company’s recognised trade unions, who have worked tirelessly to remain flexible and accommodating.
“The airline has failed for several reasons but there can be no blame apportioned to the pilot, crew or other staff groups.
“This is further evidence that the jobs death spiral I’ve been highlighting for months sadly continues. Make no mistake – aviation remains in serious crisis.”
Customers with affected bookings will be contacted by the airline and refunded.
It said on Thursday that it has resumed talks with the Norwegian government about further state support.