NORWEGIAN AIR plans to close its long-haul operation and focus instead on a scaled-down European business.

The move, which was announced today, comes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic that has all but halted transatlantic travel.

Norwegian scraps flights to US due to Covid – spelling end to era of cheap transatlantic plane tickets

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Norwegian plans to close its long-haul operationCredit: AFP

The plan, which is subject to approval by an Irish bankruptcy court, would cut Norwegian's fleet to about 50 aircraft from the exisiting 140, the company said.

1,100 staff pilots and cabin crew in the UK will be made redundant as a result.

The airline aims to focus on domestic routes in Norway, across the Nordics and to key European destinations.

Customers with bookings affected by the future changes in our route network will be contacted directly and will be refunded.

Norwegian was founded in 1993 but only began operating as a low-cost carrier with bigger Boeing 737 aircraft in 2002.

They transformed the transatlantic flights market for Brits in 2013, when they launched low-fare routes to New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale from London Gatwick.

Over the following six years they added a number of extra routes including Seattle, Denver, Singapore, Austin and Chicago.

Norwegian scraps flights to US due to Covid – spelling end to era of cheap transatlantic plane tickets

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The airline aims to focus on domestic routes in Norway, across the Nordics and to key European destinationsCredit: Alamy

A number of other low-cost UK-US offerings followed suit, including Wow Air and Primera Air, but both companies have since ceased operations.

Norwegian's low fares also influenced traditional transatlantic operators British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to lower their fares, by providing no-frills options on US-bound flights.

There will be concern among Brits now that without competition from the likes of Norwegian, the price of a plane ticket to America will start to rise.

Jacob Schram, CEO of Norwegian said: "Our short haul network has always been the backbone of Norwegian and will form the basis of a future resilient business model.

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“We do not expect customer demand in the long haul sector to recover in the near future, and our focus will be on developing our short haul network as we emerge from the reorganisation process.

“It is with a heavy heart that we must accept that this will impact dedicated colleagues from across the company. I would like to thank each one of our affected colleagues for their tireless dedication and contribution to Norwegian over the years.”

The board of directors of the legal entities employing primarily long haul staff in Italy, France, the UK and the US have contacted insolvency practitioners.

NORWEGIAN AIR plans to close its long-haul operation and focus instead on a scaled-down European business.