Norwegian has been quite the game changer (and a bit of a pain in the *ahem* of the traditional players in the US-EU market) once they started trans-Atlantic operations. From very humble beginnings as an air shuttle service within Norway, then further out towards Scandinavia, the airline has astounded critics and analysts since.
As they expanded beyond their home country of Norway, they began flying regular scheduled services to continental Europe and the United Kingdom and basically took the market by storm by offering safe, reliable service with a charm despite being a low cost carrier and charging for the frills of a checked bag or inflight food – mostly thanks to their crew and rejection of the Ryanair mantra of nickel and diming for every single little option there is available.
After their dominance in Europe grew and the advent of the economically viable 787, Norwegian looked to pastures further and greener – to the United States, Caribbean and Asia – and have since remarkably opened crew bases in New York, Fort Lauderdale, Bangkok and Oakland.
Such was the airline’s intent.
It didn’t go off without a hitch though – teething problems with their initial 787 fleet meant that the airline had to take a loss and lease out used and tired A340s to cover for the slack the time their own aircraft were out of service. Local airlines in the United States fought out against the low cost nature of Norwegian and the fact that there were foreign crews being based out of the United States.
But now things have normalized, and those introductory issues have been sorted out by the relevant government and regulatory authorities, mostly to the benefit of Norwegian Airlines.
And now we see the amazing fares that the airline first promised when they started their long haul operations.
Norwegian has announced that the company will be drastically increasing flights between the United States and various points to Europe in 2017 – thus enabling the airline to offer some very much bargain flight and fare offers to the general traveling public. $69 one way basic fares in fact.
The focus is on London Gatwick. Starting mid-April 2017, the airline will boost operations this way:
- Oakland (basically San Francisco) to London services will increase from the current 3x weekly flights to 5x weekly
- Los Angeles (LAX) to London will be upped from 5x weekly to daily on the 787-8 aircraft
- Leisure operations from Orlando, Florida go to 2x weekly to London
- Fort Lauderdale goes from 2x weekly to 3x weekly to Gatwick
- New York JFK services go from daily services to double daily, 14x weekly
Give the new ruling from the US government regarding awarding foreign carriers rights to operate between cities in the United States and Europe despite being from a third country, Norwegian then announced a raft of other changes to their long haul operations from the USA.
Per an official announcement from Norwegian:
Norwegian’s CEO, Bjørn Kjos, has praised the huge support received from across Ireland during the airline’s long-running application with the U.S. authorities.
“We welcome the long overdue news that our Irish subsidiary Norwegian Air International (NAI) has been granted awarded a foreign carrier permit by the US Department of Transportation,” said Norwegian CEO and founder Bjørn Kjos.
“I would like to offer my sincere thanks for the significant and invaluable support we have received from across Ireland over the past three years – the efforts by the Irish Government, key politicians and authorities, Cork Airport and many others have all played a crucial role in the U.S. authorities finally approving our application,” continued Kjos.
So it’s happening, folks. And it might happen from and/or to secondary airports that have never had trans-Atlantic service. That’s the democratization of air service, and the addition of choice for folks to book their travel on. That’s what Norwegian promised when they started this venture, and they’re slowly and surely delivering on.
There are a few questions here, and you’d be best served to read the airline’s FAQ section on their website regarding the new operations and what they foresee for the future.
Here are the most important take aways from their release:
What routes are Norwegian planning?
Norwegian is planning to finally launch new transatlantic routes from the Greater Boston and Greater New York areas to Cork and Shannon Airports.
When will flights start and go on sale?
The first transatlantic flights to Cork will begin in summer 2017 – full details will be announced early in 2017 when flights will be available for purchase.
How much will fares be?
Full details on fares will be announced early next year, but Norwegian is committed to making long-haul travel affordable and accessible to all. The new routes will match low-cost fares with a high-quality service on-board state-of-the-art new aircraft.
Norwegian has already announced previously introductory launch fares will start at $69 one-way, including taxes, and with average return fares of $300-350, including taxes.
What crew will operate the routes?
Crew from our new U.S. bases and European crew from across Norwegian Air International’s existing European bases will operate the flights. Norwegian is actively recruiting new crew and pilots across Europe and the US to match the airline’s fleet growth and route expansion – new flights from airports such as Cork will help support many more new jobs both in the air and on the ground. As an example, immediately after the foreign carrier permit was confirmed by the US authorities, Norwegian announced plans to open a further two bases in the US next year, creating at least 150 new crew and pilot jobs.
Will Norwegian offer routes to other Irish airports?
Norwegian’s immediate focus is on finalizing plans for the first ever transatlantic flights from Cork and also Shannon. However with US approvals now in place and Norwegian’s huge aircraft order, work is also underway to look at further opportunities for expansion in Ireland.
Currently the cheapest flights are $195 one way but as frequencies and operations increase next year, prices will drop. And they will also be cheap to points beyond London, Ireland and Norway – the airline flies to a massive amount of cities around the continent.
Look, Norwegian’s bargain basement fares and service isn’t for everyone – especially for those such as Joey and myself who are wed to our respective alliances. But we can appreciate the fact that the choice is now available and that the service exists in the first place. If anything it also keeps the existing big players on these routes – aka our alliance members – on their feet; keeping service levels high and fare pricing reasonable. It also helps ensure that the resident airlines on the route continues to make it worth our while to remain loyal to their elite frequent flier member programs with them. To that end, go right ahead Norwegian!
For that, we applaud Norwegian’s introduction to the North America to Europe market and the upheaval it’s causing. Hell, 2016 has been a year of upheaval, maybe this could be one that’s actually for the good?
That said keep in mind that the airline does have ancillary fees which might make the flight more expensive. Be aware of what you’re getting yourself into and you’ll do well (aka pack light, don’t check a bag and have an Ambien at the ready). But think of all the valuable Dollars you’ll save and what you can spend it on in London or wherever else in Europe!
How about you…would you book a Norwegian flight for $69 to cross the Atlantic in 2017? I think I might! Not sure about Joey though…