by Bradley Gerrard, The Telegraph, October 11, 2017
Cheap long-haul flights helped Norwegian’s passenger numbers soar in a torrid month for the airline industry that saw Ryanair cancelling flights and Monarch falling into administration.
Norwegian, which has become increasingly synonymous with low-cost trans-Atlantic flights, said such routes had been most popular with passengers and were responsible for the largest amount of growth at the airline in September.
More than 3.1m passengers travelled with Norwegian last month, up 14pc compared to the same month in 2016, meaning its load factor - which is a measure of how full its planes are on average - hit nearly 90pc.
The airline has benefited from an increased demand for flights to the US as passengers have avoided places such as Turkey and countries in North Africa, which have suffered terrorist attacks in recent years. This month alone it has launched new routes to Denver and Seattle.
Short-haul low-cost peer easyJet also seemed to avoid the turbulence in the wider industry with passenger numbers rising 11pc in September to hit 7.7m, helping it report a load factor of 93.6pc.
The good news for the two airlines came as new data revealed air fares to Europe have risen almost a quarter on average on the back of the fallout from Monarch’s collapse and Ryanair’s cancellations.
Data from online travel company Skyscanner showed average flight prices for October have risen 23pc as passengers scramble to find alternative flights for their getaways.
Hayley Shearer, growth manager at Skyscanner, said the company had seen a “spike in traffic” which she attributed to people trying to make new travel arrangements. Prices on flights to Dublin, Milan, Malaga, Alicante and Barcelona have all jumped in October although rises are less pronounced in the coming months for the time being.
The collapse of Monarch was the largest failure of an airline in British aviation history. Marc Meyohas, founder of Greybull Capital, which owns Monarch, said the airline had been hit by a “bloody hurricane” of sterling’s weakness, terrorism and Brexit.
Greybull is the airline’s largest secured creditor and is owed around £150m through a series of shareholder loans. Beyond this, the Pension Protection Fund is owed £7.5m, as a result of a deal struck at the airline’s 2014 restructuring.
The collapse was described as “unprecedented” by the Civil Aviation Authority, which predicted up to 110,000 passengers would be left stranded and would have to be returned home on flights arranged by the industry body at no extra cost to travellers.
Administrator Blair Nimmo of KPMG is leading the winding up of the airline, but admitted that there was little hope for its 2,100 staff, 1,858 of whom were immediately made redundant.
Elsewhere, Thomas Cook pilots have called off eight days of strikes over pay across the next two weeks after agreeing to go to a binding arbitration with the carrier. This will mean both the pilots and the airline have to agree to what the arbiter proposes unlike at ACAS, which is a mediation service aimed at getting each side to agree on proposals.