Norwegian Air Shuttle has appointed Jacob Schram as its new CEO, filling the gap left when co-founder and long-standing CEO Bjorn Kjos left the low-cost airline in July.

Schram will start his new role Jan. 1, 2020. Geir Karlsen, who has been acting CEO since Kjos stepped down, will continue as CFO and deputy CEO.

“[Schram’s] extensive management experience from global companies, proven leadership skills, strong commercial consumer orientation and impressive track record of value creation will greatly benefit Norwegian as the company enters into a new phase,” board chairman Niels Smedegaard said.

The Norwegian low-cost, long-haul carrier has been facing financial difficulties linked to its ambitious fleet and expansion drive over the past few years, and has more recently pledged to focus on profitability over growth.

It said Nov. 6 it had raised new capital through a placement and convertible bond issue completed Nov. 5, leaving it “fully funded through 2020 and beyond” based on its current business plan, with gross proceeds of NOK2.5 billion through a private placement and a convertible bond issue of $150 million.

“During the last months, the company has taken a series of measures that has resulted in strong financial improvements,” Smedegaard said.

The latest fundraising round came after the carrier had already undertaken a rights issue, announced in January, to strengthen its balance sheet.

The airline has also been taking other actions in recent months to increase liquidity and reduce capital commitments. These include:

  • Restructuring aircraft orders to reduce capital expenditure by NOK22 billion for 2019 and 2020;
  • Establishing a joint venture with China Construction Bank Leasing International Corporation DAC that should reduce capital commitments in 2020 to 2023 by another NOK13.7 billion;
  • Selling aircraft and shares in Norwegian Finans Holding;
  • Extending the maturity of unsecured bonds;
  • Raising cost-reduction targets; and
  • Entering into a partnership with New York-based JetBlue Airways to build feeder traffic in the US market.

“The airline industry is characterized by strong competition and unforeseen events, but it is also an industry that is important to people everywhere. Now, my main focus will be to bring the company back to profitability and fortify the company’s position as a strong international player within the aviation industry,” Schram said. 

Schram, 57, a Norwegian citizen, has 30 years of experience in large international companies, including management roles at Circle K, Statoil Fuel & Retail (SFR), McDonalds and McKinsey and is also the author of a book, “The Essence of Business.”

Over the past year, he has worked with private investments, startups and presentations related to his book and the topic, “Future mobility 2030,” in addition to holding the position of senior advisor at McKinsey, Norwegian said.

Norwegian said Nov. 12 it was adding new seasonal routes from US destinations to Paris and Rome. Calling the US its largest and most important source market, the airline said it would continue to invest in expanding its network.

In October, Norwegian had said it would boost frequencies to some US destinations from London next summer in response to demand, but would reduce flights to Buenos Aires; Rio de Janeiro; and Miami and Orlando, Florida.

Helen Massy-Beresford, helen.massy-beresford@aviationweek.co.uk