Norwegian Airlines is stripping back its service (Image: Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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Budget airline Norwegian has axed its long-haul network, leading to the loss of 1,100 pilot and cabin crew jobs based at Gatwick Airport.

The carrier said it will operate a "simplified business structure and dedicated short-haul route network" after being badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

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

Norwegian, which helped transform transatlantic travel by expanding the European budget airline business model to longer-haul destinations, has been forced to ground all but six of its aircraft amid the pandemic.

Some of its most popular deals included £99 trips to New York.

But it struggled to contain costs during its rapid expansion, and has come under further strain due to the virus crisis.

Its entire Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet has been grounded since March 2020.

In August 2020, the airline announced that it would need more financial support to get through the pandemic, after reporting a loss of £442 million for the first six months of the year.

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

"I am pleased to present a robust business plan today, which will provide a new start for the company."

Norwegian has grounded its long-haul fleet
(Image: Norwegian Air)

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Under its new plan, it will only fly within Norway, across the Nordic region and to "key European destinations".

"By focusing our operation on a short-haul network, we aim to attract existing and new investors, serve our customers and support the wider infrastructure and travel industry in Norway and across the Nordics and Europe," Schram said.

"Our focus is to rebuild a strong, profitable Norwegian so that we can safeguard as many jobs as possible.

"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."

The plan could return Norwegian to profit later this year "based on conservative assumptions both in relation to the length of the Covid-19 pandemic and relating to revenue, costs and load factors", it said.

Around 2,160 jobs will be lost around the world – including at Gatwick – as the firm also has long-haul bases in France, Italy, Spain and the US.

Schram continued: "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."

Customers with affected bookings will be contacted by the airline and refunded.

It said on Thursday that it has resumed talks with the Norwegian government about further state support.