So there was much contention when Norwegian Airlines started American operations – not only because they get Irish registrations, where there is a tax free code on airplanes, on their new Boeing 787 aircraft that fly their North American routes but also because they hired crews based in North America but from all over the world, namely in places with cheap labor such as Thailand and Malaysia. Their crew also have no unions, which bucks the trend of American based airlines and people simply just didn’t take to the notion of an airline named Norwegian Airlines operating planes based out of Ireland with crew from Thailand being allowed to do business as an ‘American’ company’.
Well, tough for them because the US Department of Transport (DoT) approved their air certificate and they began operations a few years back with their inaugural flight from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (FLL). The city was the first hub Norwegian wanted to open in the US, followed by Orlando just a few miles away then Oakland (OAK) soon after – all perfect destinations for the low yielding mass moving traffic they were catering too. Some of the inaugural fares across the Atlantic were borderline ridiculous – $99 all in for a base fare (not including bags, meals, seat selection etc) were ridiculous.
Many were skeptical – but in the end, their model has worked and they are reaping the benefits of it. They’ve even expanded into intra-North American operations such as flights from New York and Florida to the Caribbean – offering competitive fares on new 737 next gen aircraft.
Well, further evidence of their success is the fact that rumors are abound at the moment that the airline is set to launch a new array of routes expanding their Oakland hub and connecting San Francisco with Rome, Paris and Madrid. United will be miffed if this does come to fruition because it will eat into their load factors for their Paris flight and Norwegian would have been UA to the stage with flights to Rome and Madrid.
I mean, they’ve already beaten them to Barcelona and Copenhagen from San Francisco market, with flights confirmed to begin in 2017. Norwegian has already started brand new flights to Barcelona from Newark, another United hub. Being only semi serious here, but might they be targeting UA perhaps?
The big thing that strikes us is that Oakland traditionally has not hosted a large amount of international flights, so depending on the timings the airport might be restricted in being able to handle the new flights or even Norwegian’s intentions to continue to expand their international operations in OAK. But, what further lends credibility to this rumor is what Oakland Airport’s Aviation Supervising Marketing and Communications Representative had to say about the airport’s future plans:
“The international terminal expansion is focused on increasing passenger and baggage capacity, which will double when renovations are complete next year. Yes, the international gates will stay at two, although so far with intelligent scheduling we are looking okay for 2017, but longer term we are aware that we will need additional gates and are actively working on solving that before it becomes an issue.”
Well there you have it. Norwegian is surely in talks with the airport on how to handle their expansion plan for international flights, and of course OAK is ready and willing to make it happen. So we think that if these flights do materialize, it will be start of many more to come.
How about you? Are you willing to forgo some comfort and sacrifice some Star Alliance miles and hop over from United to Norwegian for a cheap, cheap ticket to Europe? As a United 1K I have to say I’m a bit tempted, especially because the cost of a Norwegian Business Class ticket on a brand new 787 with decent service is usually about around an Economy ticket on a UA 747 with no entertainment for a 10 hour flight and a nice serving of wilted lettuce, microwave chicken and a brownie.
Might there be a possibility of some Star Alliance and/or United elites defecting – even if for just one trip – and foregoing the miles for a cheap, cheap ticket to Europe?
Given all this, I have to say I’d have to at least entertain the thought if I needed to fly the route – what say you?