January 25, 2018 / 4:37 PM / a year ago

INTERVIEW-Norwegian Air CFO says sales volumes, prices stronger than yr ago

DUBLIN, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Ticket sale volumes and pricing at budget carrier Norwegian Air have been far better than a year ago in the past few months, acting chief financial officer Tore Oestby said in an interview.

The rapidly expanding airline, which offers transatlantic flights as well as European short haul, has seen an improvement in trading, likely due in part to problems experienced by rival Ryanair, and the collapse of Monarch and Air Berlin, Oestby said.

“We saw a pretty weak 2016 and start of 2017 ... But since then we have seen the market gradually strengthen. Both in long haul and short haul,” Oestby said on the sidelines of the Airfinance conference in Dublin.

“Through H2 2017 and the beginning on 2018 (it) is far better than a year ago - both on volume and pricing,” he said.

“We are quite confident about 2018. The market looks pretty good.”

Norwegian’s shares fell sharply last year reflecting investor worries over the airline’s costs, high debts and rapid expansion into long-haul flights. But the stock has rebounded this year following its strong passenger traffic figures.

Oestby said that recent cancellations of some of Norwegian’s transatlantic routes was just part of the normal churn of a low-cost carrier.

A Bergen-Providence service was shelved because volumes were “too thin” and routes between Edinburgh and Hartford, Connecticut, were ended due to high passenger duties.

“It’s same way as other low cost players ... if you want to build market, you have to test routes. Some are going to be great and others not as great,” he said.

Asked about financing for the airline’s growing fleet, Oestby said financing was in place through May and that the airline was finalising financing for the back-end of the year and into 2019. (Reporting by Conor Humphries. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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