Norwegian Air founder replaced as chief executive

Simon Calder

The founder of Norwegian has been replaced as chief executive.

Bjorn Kjos, 72, has been given a new role as adviser to the chairman.

He has been replaced temporarily by the airline’s chief financial officer, Geir Karlsen, 54.

Norwegian is the third-largest airline at Gatwick, with 4.6 million annual passengers, and with more than 1,500 UK-based pilots and cabin crew.

But the airline has struggled financially as it expanded rapidly.

It has also been hit by problems with two of the Boeing aircraft types it uses: the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max following two fatal crashes, and the Rolls-Royce engines on some of its 787 Dreamliners.

Mr Kjos said: “I am confident that the board of directors will find the best qualified successor to lead the next chapters of the Norwegian story together with the top management team.

“Leaving the exciting future tasks to a new CEO and taking on a new challenge as an advisor, is a set-up I am very happy with.

"I look forward to spending more time working on specific strategic projects that are crucial to the future success of Norwegian.”

Niels Smedegaard, chairman of Norwegian, said: “I am very pleased Bjorn will remain at the company as an advisor to the Board and the Chair.

“As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, it will be an advantage for the company to benefit from Bjorn’s extensive network, in-depth knowledge of and experience with global aviation.”

In 2018 Mr Kjos turned down an offer from British Airways’ parent company, IAG, which was worth around £1bn. The rejection was widely regarded as unwise.