Norwegian Air Q1 Losses Narrow, Sees Slower 2009

Norwegian Air Shuttle reported a smaller first-quarter operating loss on Thursday, in line with analyst expectations, and forecast a business slowdown in 2009.

The budget airline's loss before interest and tax narrowed to NOK134 million Norwegian kroner (USD$19.92 million) in the quarter, from NOK207 million a year ago.

"The current macro economic outlook is uncertain. Slowdown in the business environment expected throughout 2009," Norwegian Air Shuttle said in a statement.

Norwegian, which competes with Scandinavian leader SAS, said it would monitor the traffic development and will make adjustments to the route portfolio if necessary.

"The demand for traveling with Norwegian and advanced bookings has been satisfactory entering the second quarter of 2009," Norwegian Air Shuttle said.

Chief executive Bjoern Kjos said he was pleased with the first quarter results.

"The Norwegian operation is running well, and we have restructured the organization in Sweden. We are also launching several new routes out of Denmark," he said in a statement.

Norwegian Air said its Swedish operation -- the rebranded FlyNordic, acquired in July 2007 -- would continue to focus on a restructuring.

In its Polish hub, aimed in part to service Eastern European migrant workers to Scandinavia, macro conditions were uncertain with signs of weaker demand, Norwegian said.

In 2008, Norwegian announced more international routes, expanded its operations in Sweden, started up a new base at Rygge airport near Oslo and began operations in Denmark.

It forecast a unit cost -- an average per passenger carried and kilometer flown -- in the area of 0.51 kroner for 2009 against 0.57 kroner in 2008.

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