The low-cost airline changing the way we fly

Boeing 787 Dreamliner in colours of low-cost carrier NorwegianImage copyright

On Wednesday, the first ever budget flight through London to South America departs through Gatwick airport.

Fares on the 14-hour Norwegian Air Shuttle flight to Buenos Aires start through £259 one-way.

The seats are tightly packed in addition to food in addition to luggage cost extra, yet the no-frills type of flying, so well established on short-haul routes, is actually becoming increasingly common on intercontinental flights.

A fresh breed of low-cost carriers such as Norwegian, Wow, in addition to Primera are taking on the old guard such as British Airways in addition to Air France-KLM from the skies above the Atlantic.

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There is actually an escalating battle between the fresh transatlantic low-cost carriers in addition to established airlines

In fact, Norwegian has just beaten British Airways’s record for the fastest transatlantic flight in a subsonic aircraft after one of its planes made the journey through JFK in fresh York to London Gatwick in just all 5 hours in addition to 13 minutes.

Global growth

Norwegian has rapidly expanded since the idea commenced as a modest regional airline flying between Bergen in addition to Trondheim in 1993.

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Bjorn Kjos has made Norwegian Europe’s third-biggest budget carrier

Bjorn Kjos, a former paratrooper in addition to pilot, has turned Norwegian into Scandinavia’s largest airline in addition to the third-biggest budget carrier in Europe.

The UK has been at the centre of its growth plan. the idea flew 5.8 million passengers through the UK in addition to Ireland in addition to launched more than 15 routes in 2017, including fresh routes between Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin, Cork in addition to Shannon to smaller east coast US cities such as Providence, Hartford in addition to Stewart.

yet the idea is actually Gatwick in which is actually the key to the airline’s ambitions.

Whilst legacy carriers tend to focus on the more lucrative yet expensive takeoff in addition to landing slots at London Heathrow, Norwegian recently secured a different 28 weekly slots at Gatwick. the idea hopes to build on its existing routes to nine US cities, Singapore in addition to right now Buenos Aires.

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Dancing the tango in Buenos Aires, Norwegian’s latest destination

“The UK will be at the heart of our continued global expansion in addition to we remain fully committed to the market. With huge global ambitions, we’re confident in which the UK can offer Norwegian a springboard to further expansion.” says 71-year-old Mr Kjos.

He is actually talking to journalists on the 24th floor of The Shard skyscraper in central London. The message isn’t subtle. Norwegian has towering ambitions.

the idea won the prestigious ‘Airline of the Year’ award through the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence. The judges commenting: “Norwegian has blazed a trail in which others are right now following. The impact on fresh North Atlantic traffic in what was previously considered a mature market has already been remarkable.”

Analysis: By Simon Calder, travel expert

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Norwegian has honoured Sir Freddie Laker by putting him on one of its aircraft

If imitation is actually the sincerest form of flattery, then British Airways’ parent company, IAG, is actually paying Norwegian plenty of compliments.

First the idea duplicated Norwegian’s routes such as Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale in Florida in addition to Barcelona to Oakland in California. right now BA engineers are busy squeezing an extra 52 seats into Gatwick-based Boeing 777 aircraft. The specific aim of “densification”: to reduce BA’s per-passenger costs below Norwegian’s 787.

Four decades ago, Sir Freddie Laker triggered alarm among transatlantic airlines with his cut-cost Skytrain, which went bust in 1982. The aviation pioneer went to his grave in 2006 convinced in which rivals had ganged up in a bitter cost war to force Laker Airways out of business. yet ambitious expansion during a global recession also made the airline vulnerable.

Last year Bjorn Kjos, Norwegian’s CEO, honoured Sir Freddie on the tailfin of a transatlantic Boeing. He must be hoping for calmer skies.

Millennial travel

Norwegian’s cost strategy is actually based on flying a young fleet of aircraft such as Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which burn less fuel per passenger compared to some other long haul aircraft.

These offer passengers a more upmarket experience than they may have come to expect through a budget airline with modern interiors in addition to the benefit of free wi-fi.

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Norwegian hopes its fresh Boeing 787 Dreamliners will appeal to passengers

This kind of has especially appealed to millennial travellers in addition to the airline has configured its planes so they can carry more economy passengers seeking adventure at bargain prices.

The airline has marketed fares as low as £69 ($95) for some transatlantic flights yet passengers might have to pay for add-ons such as checked luggage, onboard food in addition to a reserved seat.

Another way Norwegian reduces costs is actually by flying to secondary airports where the landing fees are much lower in addition to finding niche routes where there is actually a gap. For example, instead of flying to San Francisco, Norwegian flies to nearby Oakland.

BA ‘fightback’

With the competition heating up, legacy carriers such as BA have been criticised for trying to keep prices low by relentlessly cutting back on “frills”.

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Level is actually the fresh low-cost carrier through BA’s owner, IAG

yet they have also fought back by trying to outmuscle their low-cost long haul competitors by launching their own services.

Last year, BA’s owner launched Level, a fresh trans-Atlantic budget airline.

Air France-KLM have launched its own long-haul budget carrier Joon, aimed at “a young working clientele whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology”.

Growing too fast?

yet despite imitations, Norwegian’s rapid rise has led some to question whether its financial type is actually sustainable.

By the end of 2019, Norwegian’s fleet will have increased to 193 in addition to the airline has borrowed heavily to buy fresh aircraft.

Aviation analyst John Strickland cautions in which: “They just haven’t delivered the margins of profitability you’d want to see, especially when compared with British Airways or Ryanair.

“They will have to work harder to prove they have a sustainable type in addition to can weather the many storms an airline can face, such as economic downturns or reduced passenger numbers after a terror attack”

Unsurprisingly, from the fiercely competitive world of commercial aviation Norwegian has found itself the target of its rivals in some other ways.

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Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary was one of those questioning Norwegian’s ability to survive

Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost airline, has shunned transatlantic routes because the idea says the idea can’t get aeroplanes at a cost to make the numbers work

Last year, its outspoken chief executive, Michael O’Leary, ruffled feathers by questioning Norwegian’s survival.

“Both Monarch in addition to Norwegian are in trouble. the idea’s an open secret among airlines in which Monarch in addition to Norwegian may not survive through the winter. They are burning cash.”

Monarch collapsed months later. Norwegian is actually still flying in addition to expanding.

Staying lucky

Bjorn Kjos seems to take pride in all the predictions of decline. Some argue he has just been lucky, yet for the septuagenarian who has changed the rules of flying, he doesn’t think the idea is actually down to luck.

“Yes the idea is actually tough yet you have to ramp the idea up before you start flying. the idea takes time to build up a network. After a huge investment, you will not be able to pay the idea off after one month.

“People have to know you are flying all over. in addition to when they do, then you are the winner.”

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