Is Norwegians’ long haul expansion a daring venture or a calculated market ‘Hail Mary’?

The Aisle View

Aviation professionals and wider public alike, Norwegian are causing a stir in the commercial airline market.

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Norwegian Airlines’ 787 on approach into Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The telltale red noses and outstanding tail fins have started making the trip across the Atlantic pond. Thanks to recent permissions granted by the United States’ FAA. A decision which is causing turbulence with some of America’s heavy hitters.

European travelers all know of the low cost powers such as EasyJet, RyanAir and WizzAir to name a few. I recently took a Norwegian flight from London Gatwick to Helsinki at a fraction of the cost. And it occurred to me – another low cost carrier exploiting the market. Surely it has already been saturated down to the molecular level…

Low cost carriers have typically served micro regions on short haul routes. Leaving the long haul flights to the flag ship premium carriers such as British Airways and American Airlines. After all, the thought of low cost cabin conditions on long haul flights is enough to give you nightmares.

Is Norwegians’ long haul expansion a daring venture or a calculated market ‘Hail Mary’?

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NFL Players scramble to secure a ‘Hail Mary’ pass.

Norwegian have more orders on aircraft than they are currently even operating. 169 over 124 to be exact. That’s over 3 billion dollars on the line. Personally, I see it as an aggressive ‘Blitzkrieg’ tactic to flood the market before anyone else has the chance to act. It has injected an energy into the system that has made the fat cat flagships sit up in their arm chairs and put down their cigars.

Who’s happy?

Boeing aren’t complaining, with much of Norwegians orders being placed on their new aircraft.  As sad as it is to see, the 747-8 program was a futile attempt at competing with Airbus. Their 787’s are doing well, despite some teething issues, and their 737MAX’s are eagerly awaiting their type certificate approval.

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The new 737MAX Norwegian will operate their Europe – New York flights with.

Passengers aren’t complaining either, eyeing up $60 one way fares from Europe to USA’s east coast. But is it really that cheap?

Who’s angry?

American Airlines are angry that’s who. How dare these Vikings threaten their land of the free? They have enough on their plate competing with their regional low cost cousins, now their relatively stable international market share is at risk and they are, understandably, freaking out.

Other flagships are worried, and if they aren’t well then they very quickly should be. Low cost flights have proven their influence and price conscious consumers are ready to snap up the best deals they can find.

What’s the catch?

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually isn’t. And $60 flights to New York sound too good to be true. I say ‘New York’ with a pinch of salt. Norwegian will be flying into Stewart International Airport. A hefty 70+ miles north of NYC. And as any international travelers to the USA will know, the yanks don’t exactly provide German efficiency to foreign nationals on arrival. Add a two-hour drive time onto the airport delays and you may as well have just flown to Las Vegas.

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Norwegian Airlines’ arrival location into the USA, Stewart International Airport.

 

Low cost means less. You don’t go to the Four Seasons and ask for a low-cost room. Add checked bags and in flight meals and the price is more likened to $240. Transport to NYC will bump that up even further.

It’s also worth noting that Norwegian are selling these cheap fares on aircraft that are not even certified yet. The 737MAX is still under testing, albeit on schedule. A lot of risks on the table for the airline but a high potential of success if they pull it off.

It’s a cheeky proposal and one that you have to admire. The pricing is just too good for consumers to ignore and Norwegian will likely see a sufficient slice of the market share.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Edited by Nicholas Combes

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