NORWEGIAN has become the latest airline to attempt a low-cost service to America, in a coup for Gatwick Airport.
The airline will sell flights to New York next summer for just £149 one-way – an offer made possible by the advent of more efficient planes like the new Dreamliner, chief executive Bjorn Kjos said yesterday.
“The airlines that have tried so far have been using 747s and 340s, and none of them, we found, had the cost structure that could work,” he told City A.M. “In order to succeed you need a profitable and efficient low-cost model – if you don’t have that there is huge risk. We also have more than 400 routes so we can be our own feeder.”
Norwegian aims to keep its introductory fares available for the foreseeable future. It follows previous attempts to make cheap transatlantic flights viable including Laker Airways, which offered low fares from Gatwick but went bust in 1982.
Even more upmarket airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have cut back on flights to the States in recent years. Ryanair has long considered starting a long-haul arm but is yet to take the plunge.
The decision to base the routes at Gatwick, where Norwegian already operates, was a “logical decision” given its cheaper airport fees, Kjos said.
However, the move gives a boost to Gatwick as it fights to compete with Heathrow for long-haul traffic.
Airport boss Stewart Wingate described the new service as “a significant industry game-changer”.
“This is one of the most exciting route developments since Gatwick’s change of ownership four years ago and shows the benefits to passengers of Gatwick competing with Heathrow,” said Wingate.