Norwegian Air CEO and co-founder Kjos quits top job

Norwegian Air CEO Bjoern Kjos steps down

Norwegian Air CEO Bjoern Kjos steps down

Norwegian Air chief executive Bjoern Kjos resigned on Thursday amid news of major losses and large debts, a company press release revealed.

Bjoern Kjos, 72, had been CEO for the past 17 years and turned the small domestic carrier into a global low-priced airline.

Bjorn Kjos, who will stay on as an adviser to the chairman, will be replaced on an interim basis by finance chief Geir Karlsen.

"People ask me 'isn't Norwegian your baby?' It is not my baby, it is the baby of 11,000 people", Kjos told a news conference, referring to the number of Norwegian's employees.

Norwegian Air teamed up with easyJet in 2017 to make its long-distance flights available to easyJet customers.

"Bjørn is definitely one of the most influential European entrepreneurs of our time", Mr Smedegaard added.

Norwegian has 18 of the aircraft and on Thursday said that it did not expect them to return to service until October, later than its previous estimate of August.

Troubles began for Norwegian after aviation authorities worldwide grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft following two fatal crashes which claimed around 350 lives and revealed that the aircraft's MCAS systems caused pilots to lose control of the plane.

"There is a lot of turbulence surrounding Norwegian with a lot of internal measures starting up but not finished", he said, also citing the grounding of the Boeing MAX jets.

During his tenure, the company has developed from a small domestic operation with 130 employees and four aircraft to a global low-priced airline with more than 11,000 employees and 162 aircraft.

The company signed a letter of intent in February with an "Asian company" but few concrete details on a possible deal have come since then.

The disruptions hit Norwegian's profitability in 2019, Norwegian said as quoted by Reuters, despite the company reporting higher second quarter revenues than expected.

Its net profit came in at 82.8 million Norwegian crowns ($9.7 million), down from 300.3 million in the same period previous year, but ahead of the average forecast of 76.2 million from five analysts compiled by Refinitiv.