7 JULY 2014
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The race to the future bumped firmly into déjà vu when Norwegian Air launched its much-heralded low-cost, trans-Atlantic scheduled services from Gatwick last week. BTN was represented. This was what our special guest reporter had to say.
It was not forgotten that the carrier’s inaugural Boeing 787 flight to New York was taking place some 37 years after Freddie Laker’s ground-breaking, low-fare DC-10 ‘Skytrain’ rolled down Gatwick’s single runway en route to the same destination. Bjorn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian, even stretched out his arms to acknowledge and replicate Laker’s famous ‘flying Freddie’ pose for assembled photographers. Norwegian’s three flights weekly New York (JFK) service with one-way fares from £149 (Laker’s was £59) opened last Wednesday.
It was preceded by the launch of twice weekly Los Angeles services (one way from £199) the previous day and followed by the introduction of twice weekly flights to Fort Lauderdale (£179) on Thursday.
Cabin refreshments and hold luggage is not included, which will add £35 each way, with a typical (cheapest) mid-week return service in August to New York actually costing around £750 if you add in food.
The new trans-Atlantic network is operated by one Gatwick-based Boeing 787 Dreamliner offering 32 Premium Economy and 252 Economy seats.
The new-generation aircraft’s operational benefits and customer service advantages, including state-of-the-art IFE and free wi-fi, are promoted heavily.
Without providing details, Bjorn Kjos said he was “satisfied” with forward bookings for the new UK – US services.
They were expected to maintain Norwegian’s overall average load factor of 90%.
Having entered the long haul market in 2013 after building its extensive short haul network over the previous 10 years, Norwegian looks set for significant expansion of low-cost intercontinental services.
With seven 787-8s in service and an eighth due for delivery, the airline has further orders for nine 787-9s. These aircraft are in addition to Norwegian’s “undelivered” 100 Boeing 737 Max8s, 100 Airbus A320neos and 52 737-800s.
Although precise future route development was unspecified, Gatwick appeared central to Norwegian forward strategy as Kjos joined Stewart Wingate, CEO of Gatwick, in promoting the case for a second runway.
“We are delighted to launch our US services from London Gatwick this week.
“A more competitive trans-Atlantic market can only be good news for passengers, in the same way competition between airports in London leads to more choice and better service.
To meet the demands of all passengers in the future and ensure an excellent choice of routes and fares, a new runway must be built at Gatwick,” he said. www.norwegian.com
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