The tails of low-cost carrier Norwegian Air are seen at the Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. (Photo: Johan Nilsson, AFP/Getty Images)
Norwegian Air is bringing nonstop European flights to three small Northeast airports, adding 10 new trans-Atlantic routes that initially will go on sale for as little as $65 one way.
The fast-growing European discount carrier announced the expansion Thursday, revealing plans for five trans-Atlantic routes from Providence, four from Newburgh, N.Y., and one from Hartford, Conn. (Scroll to bottom for schedule and route details)
The first of the new flights kick off in June, with Norwegian offering special introductory fares of $65 one-way to Europe. The special return fares will run €69 or £69, depending on the destination – though overseas taxes can add the equivalent of up to $100 on Norwegian’s U.S.-bound flights. Long-term, Norwegian says its lowest fares on the routes will start at $99 one way.
Norwegian’s bargain-basement introductory fares come as it leads a new set of European discount airlines set their sights on U.S. airports. Norwegian, along with Icelandic upstart WOW Air, have added multiple new routes between the USA and Europe during the past two years.
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But Norwegian has been growing the fastest, using its Boeing 787 Dreamliners to add routes from multiple U.S. cities to more than a half-dozen different destinations in Europe. And it may be no coincidence that its introductory fares from the Northeast have bested the headline-grabbing $69 one-way fares that WOW offered on its flights from California earlier this year.
Norwegian acknowledged its $65 fares are meant to drum up publicity.
“That’s how we do it, instead of spending huge amounts on marketing,” Lars Sande, Norwegian’s SVP of Sales, said in a phone interview with Today in the Sky. “People really pay attention and then you get the word of mouth for people to try your product.”
Norwegian and WOW each operate under the “ultra-low cost model” in which they advertise low base fares but charge extra for a bevy of add-on items, sometimes even carry-ons that must be stowed in overhead bins. Such models are common among airlines in both Europe and the United States. In the U.S., Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant all employ such a strategy. But Norwegian and WOW are among the first modern discounters to meaningfully expand the model to flights across the Atlantic.
As for the new routes coming to the U.S. Northeast, Norwegian will fly nonstop from Newburgh to Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin; Edinburgh, Scotland; and Shannon, Ireland. From Providence, Norwegian also will fly to the Irish city of Cork. Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport near Hartford landed nonstop service to Edinburgh.
While Norwegian first made its mark in the U.S. with its Boeing Dreamliners, the carrier’s new service comes as it prepares to begin flying its first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
The “MAX” is the newest variant of Boeing’s best-selling 737 narrowbody, and the updated narrowbody planes will be capable of flying nonstop from the U.S. East Coast to many cities in Western Europe. Norwegian says using the smaller single-aisle 737 MAX for international routes — instead of a more traditional twin-aisle “widebody” jet — will allow it to keep costs low and offer fares of less than $100 each way for flights between the USA and Europe — even on non-hub routes between smaller cities.
With the 737 MAX, Sande said “you only need to fill 189 seats, much smaller than what you’d have to sell on traditional (widebody) aircraft” that are typically used for overseas routes. Sande said the new Northeast service “wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t get the 737” to fly the routes.
To accommodate its 737-fueled expansion, Norwegian is opening two bases for 737 MAX pilots in Newburgh and Providence. Norwegian is hoping to develop those as secondary airports for the New York and Boston areas, respectively. Each are about 70 miles away from the downtown areas.
However, Sande cautioned that Norwegian doesn’t think all of its fliers bound to those three Northeast airports will necessarily be headed to New York or Boston. With the large populations living around Newburgh and Providence in the dense Northeast corridor, he predicted the airports will draw people from around the region for Norwegian’s new flights.
Sande added more routes are likely if the carrier’s 737 service from the Northeast proves popular.
“This is just the start,” he said. “We have over 200 aircraft on order, so we’ll be looking for these kind of routes with the MAX.”
He suggested “the next step may be increasing frequencies” on the just-announced routes, though he concluded by noting the MAX “could fly from Providence to just about every city in Western Europe.”
Stay tuned …
Scroll down for a complete run down of the 10 new routes announced by Norwegian.:
Edinburgh: Begins June 16; four weekly flights in the summer, two during the winter.
Belfast: Begins July 1; Two weekly flights during summer. No wintertime service.
Cork: Begins July 1: Three weekly flights during summer, two during winter.
Dublin: Begins July 2: Five weekly flights during summer, three during winter.
Shannon: Begins July 3: Two weekly flights year-round.
Newburgh/Stewart International, N.Y.
Edinburgh: Begins June 15: One daily round-trip flight, year-round.
Belfast: Begins July 1; Three weekly flights during summer, two during winter.
Dublin: Begins July 1: Daily service during summer, three weekly flights during winter.
Shannon: Begins July 2: Two weekly flights year-round.
Edinburgh: Begins June 17: Three weekly flights during summer, two during winter.
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