Norwegian Air Shuttle AS said it has interest in the first four Airbus Group NV A320neo single-aisle aircraft it plans to pass on to other companies as it expands into the rental business using jets it doesn’t need itself.
Clients include Asian and U.S. airlines, Chief Executive Chief Executive Officer Bjoern Kjos said in an interview in Paris today, adding that he is confident of leasing an additional eight aircraft. He declined to identify the clients.
Norwegian Air began developing plans to lease out as many as 150 aircraft toward the end of 2013, establishing a division in Ireland, a global hub of aircraft leasing. The carrier is embarking on one of the industry’s most ambitious growth plans as it rolls out long-haul flights while swelling its European fleet with mainly re-engined Boeing Co. 737s and Airbus A320s arriving from next year.
“We have a lot of interest on those aircraft, they are brand new and they are very hard to get hold of,” Kjos said of the A320. “We have four aircraft — neos — that we will receive in the first year. They are planned to be leased. And we have eight aircraft in 2017.”
The expansion into leasing is more about fleet management than competing directly with major lessors, Norwegian Air has said. The airline placed an order for 222 aircraft in 2012, including 100 A320neos, 100 Boeing Co. 737 Max jets and 22 737-800s. The A320neo has become Airbus’s fastest-selling plane, making slots a scarce and valuable commodity.
The Oslo-based carrier said last year that it would most likely lease out the neos, as well as current-generation 737s that it either owns or has on order, and upgrade its own fleet with the 737 Max, which features the more advanced engines.
Norwegian Air began long-haul flights using the 787 out of Scandinavia in May 2013 and added connections from London Gatwick to New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale last year. The company has faced resistance from U.S. pilots and is still awaiting approval from U.S. authorities for a foreign-carrier permit for its Irish-registered subsidiary, Kjos said, speaking at the Economist Future of Aerospace Summit.
Looking to tap other markets, Norwegian Air recently applied for a U.K. air operator certificate, which offers access to countries not covered under European Union aviation agreements, like India and South Africa, the executive said.
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