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Olympia London - 26-27 February 2020
Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel - March 11, 2020
etc.venues: Monument at 8 Eastchap - March 26, 2020
Turn the clock back to the start of 2019, and people were wondering whether fast-growing airline Norwegian, with its low-cost short- and long-haul model, had grown a little too fast.
A healthy net profit of NOK 1.135 billion ($109 million) in 2016 had turned into a net loss of NOK 1.454 billion in the 2018 results announced at the beginning of 2019.
The airline responded with a cost-cutting program called #Focus2019, which has saved NOK 1.848 billion in costs to date, largely through better airport and handling initiatives and operating efficiency. It is targeting savings of NOK 2.3 billion for the full year.
The airline's model is built on highly efficient aircraft and operations. On its key transatlantic routes, the airline says it is 33 percent more fuel-efficient than the industry average, according to data from the International Council on Clean Transportation.
The company also is aiming to make 2 percent per annum savings in the cost of fuel through the use of SkyBreathe.
This tool, funded by the EU's Clean Sky project, uses big data algorithms to analyze and optimize fuel usage. For example, by turning off one of the engines when taxiing to gate, 20 kilograms of fuel can be saved on each flight.
Of late, Norwegian's outlook has brightened.
At the end of October, the airline announced record pre-tax profits of NOK 2.2 billion for the third quarter, up 38 percent on the previous year.
In November, the airline raised NOK 2.5 billion through a private placement and a convertible bond, both of which were oversubscribed. As a result, the airline now is funded through 2020.
“The capital raise will secure required financing of working capital during the winter season and create financial headroom as the company moves from growth to profitability,” said acting CEO Geir Karlsen, who took over when founder Bjorn Kjos left the carrier in July.
Norwegian in November named as CEO Jacob Schram, who will assume the role on Jan. 1. Schram has no airline industry experience but has served as CEO of Norwegian fuel station operator Statoil Fuel & Retail and European group president for Canadian convenience store operator Couche-Tard.
Yet Norwegian's efficiency plans are based heavily on the Boeing 737 Max 8. It had been shifting from the Boeing standard 737 since 2017-18 but the March 2019 grounding of the Max on safety grounds has cast doubt on the airline's plans to reshape its fleet. Norwegian is committed to take delivery of 16 such planes in 2020 alone.
It has, however, changed tack. It has sold 24 aircraft with delivery in 2019 and 2020 with net liquidity effect of NOK 2.2 billion and also established a joint venture with China Construction Bank Leasing International Corporation DAC. CCBLI will finance the acquisition of 27 Airbus A320 Neos and will reduce the airline's capital commitments in 2020 to 2023 by another NOK 13.7 billion.
Norwegian has been the pioneer of low-cost long-haul travel and, interestingly, the U.S. is the country driving its recent success. The airline claims to be the largest foreign carrier in New York and the largest European carrier in Los Angeles. It inked an agreement in October to interline with JetBlue.
In the current quarter, revenues from U.S. passengers account for around 18 percent of total revenues, ahead of its home nation (17.5 percent), Spain (14 percent) and the UK (11.5 percent). Revenue from U.S. customers for the year to date is up 21 percent year over year.
It also has a simple corporate discount model with no volume requirements—8 percent off flexible fares and 2 percent off economy and other low fares.
Part of the reason for its success is its product offering. It is a serial winner of the SkyTrax European low-cost carrier award and has topped the SkyTrax list as the world's best low-cost long-haul airline every year since 2015.
Norwegian seems to have turned a corner but the airline's executives will be looking nervously toward Boeing's headquarters in Chicago for news of when the Max will fly again. News that the latest audit of software fixes to the Max has potentially been delayed will keep them awake at night.
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