Bjørn Kjos has stepped down as the chief executive of Norwegian Air.
The 72-year-old has led the organisation for 17 years, seeing it grow from a small regional airline to become one of the largest low-cost carriers in Europe.
Chief financial officer, Geir Karlsen, will act as interim chief executive, as Norwegian begins the search for a replacement.
At the same time, chairman, Niels Smedegaard, will take on a more active role in the management.
“I am confident that the board of directors will find the best qualified successor to lead the next chapters of the Norwegian story together with the top management team.
“Leaving the exciting future tasks to a new chief executive and taking on a new challenge as an advisor, is a set-up I am very happy with.
“I look forward to spending more time working on specific strategic projects that are crucial to the future success of Norwegian,” said Kjos.
Kjos is one of the founders of Norwegian Air Shuttle.
During his tenure, the company has developed from a small domestic operation with 130 employees and four aircraft to a global low-cost airline with more than 11,000 employees and 162 aircraft.
Following a demanding period of financial and operational challenges, fuelled by significant investments, Norwegian changed its strategy from growth to profitability in 2018.
Going forward, the company will harvest from its rapid global growth and investments.
However, shares in the company have lost two third of their value over the past year, trading today at €4.5 each.
“I am very pleased Bjørn will remain at the company as an advisor to the board and the chair.
“As Norwegian moves from growth to profitability, it will be an advantage for the company to benefit from Bjørn’s extensive network, in-depth knowledge of and experience with global aviation.
“We have already started the process of recruiting a permanent new chief executive,” said Smedegaard.