COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A new CEO for low-cost carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle was tapped Monday when the carrier’s Chief Financial Officer Geir Karlsen was named a day after the board decided to immediately terminate the contract with former CEO Jacob Schram.
No reason was given for the change. In a statement, board head Svein Harald Oeygard said Karlsen “has the competencies, focus, trust and dedication that makes him the best choice as CEO of Norwegian.”
Schram told the Norwegian news agency NTB that his firing “came as a great surprise to me.”
The ailing airline has struggled with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and a debt restructuring plan. Last month, Schram announced that Norwegian “has been saved.” The claim came after Norwegian had concluded a rescue plan, raising 6 billion kroner ($721 million) through the sale of perpetual bonds, new shares and a rights issue.
In January, the Oslo-based airline said it was ending its long-haul operations and was focusing instead on European destinations. The company then presented a plan that cut its fleet from 140 aircraft to about 50.
Norwegian said it had reduced its total debt under a plan approved by bankruptcy courts in Ireland, where its planes are registered, and in Norway. The courts demanded that the airline raise at least 4.5 billion kroner ($518 million) as part of a program to emerge from bankruptcy protection in the two countries.
The airline, whose fleet were mostly grounded as the pandemic has caused a near-total halt to global travel, also terminated aircraft orders with Boeing and Airbus.
In May 2020, the carrier got 3 billion kroner ($345 million) in loan guarantees from the Norwegian government as part of a restructuring plan. In January, the government in Oslo gave another a 1.5 billion kroner ($172 million) in loans as long as the ailing company raised at least 4.5 billion kroner from other investors. The government put several conditions for participating in the Norwegian airline’s restructuring, including that the Oslo-based company must get new capital from private investors.
Schram took the reins in November 2019 after Bjoern Kjos, who turned the small domestic carrier into a global airline over 17 years as its CEO.