Norwegian Air Shuttle crew were shut out of hotel over cash fears

Crew members from the lossmaking low-cost airline Norwegian Air Shuttle were refused access to their rooms at an airport hotel until advance payment was received from the company.

Copthorne hotel at London Gatwick delayed staff accessing rooms on Monday, the Guardian has learned.

In a letter to airline employees seen by the Guardian, the hotel said: “We have requested your company, Norwegian Airlines, to supply us with advance payment for your accommodation.”

The letter, written by the front office manager, is dated 9 March. The Guardian understands the hotel is no longer demanding that room bills are settled in advance.

The carrier has had a turbulent few months, with attempts at an overhaul of its finances hit by the outbreak of coronavirus and a 22% fall in passenger numbers in February.

Airlines have been hit hard by travel restrictions due to the spread of the virus, with many implementing emergency cost-cutting measures and slashing flights.

The owners of Flybe said the coronavirus outbreak was the final blow that pushed Europe’s largest regional airline into administration this month.

Norwegian, the third-largest low-cost carrier in Europe behind easyJet and Ryanair, has cancelled 3,000 flights between mid-March and mid-June and has temporarily laid off staff.

It posted an operating loss of £340m in its 2018 financial results, and launched an emergency cash call at the end of January, aiming to raise 3bn krone (£240m) from its shareholders, after IAG, which owns British Airways, ruled out a takeover.

Norwegian’s shares have slumped by 74% since the start of the coronavirus in China and were 15% lower on Wednesday afternoon, the lowest level since 2005.

The airline said: “We do not discuss commercially sensitive information regarding our suppliers. This is a standalone case which has now been resolved.”

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