Feeding the habit – what will ‘Worldwide by easyJet’ really offer for Norwegian?

After months of rumours and choice words in press releases, it is now clear that low cost carriers Norwegian and Ryanair will not be working together to provide feed to each others’ route networks and linking short- and long-haul inventories.

Whether this was always a smokescreen for discussions with other carriers, it is clear that Norwegian’s new relationship with easyJet at London Gatwick and its ‘Worldwide by easyJet’ concept offered the better solution for its expanding long haul network from the UK capital and potentially at other major points along its growing intercontinental operations across Europe.

The proposed through booking that was being discussed by Norwegian and Ryanair was perhaps a complexity too far and the simpler self-check partnership with easyJet mean the two airlines can effectively continue to operate their flights completely independently, even if it requires additional efforts from customers.

While schedules are not being adjusted to encourage or even to facilitate transfers and easyJet will not hold flights for connecting passengers, the new product provides a more efficient way of finding and making connections between flights, but without fundamentally changing the point to point network philosophy.

easyJet says research shows that around 200,000 of its passengers self-connect at Gatwick – currently booking separate easyJet flights and the GatwickConnects product themselves in three different transactions. But, what feed will it potentially bring to the Norwegian long haul operation out of London Gatwick?

CHART – Norwegian’s long haul activities at London Gatwick are dominated by trans-Atlantic links where it is now the leading airline in this marketSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG

For Norwegian, the addition of easyJet’s more than 100 routes to its own short/medium haul network of around 30 routes from Gatwick considerably expands the potential for long haul feed. Norwegian has achieved strong load factors on its long haul network and has come from nowhere in 2014 to almost the same seat capacity as Virgin Atlantic on Gatwick-North America this summer (behind only British Airways), predominantly on the strength of the point to point market. Nevertheless, it has suffered from weak yields and any additional demand resulting from the new easyJet partnership will be welcome.

The Blue Swan Daily has looked closely at easyJet and Norwegian’s proposed networks for the forthcoming winter schedule to see how much feed easyJet will deliver to Norwegian’s long haul flights out of London Gatwick. To maintain the robustness of its own and partner networks easyJet confirms the concept will be subject to a 2 hour 30 minute minimum connection time to allow customers plenty of time to transfer between flights and/or terminals. Therefore we have looked at the 2 hour 30 minute window ahead of this to get an understanding of the potential feed.

The analysis shows that outbound Norwegian’s new long haul routes to Buenos Aires and Singapore have the most to gain from the connection opportunities due to their split schedule and late in the day departure time option. Among its North American network, Boston has the largest number of connection options during the 2hr 30 minute connection window ahead of the minimum connecting time. The early morning departure of Norwegian’s Denver and Seattle flights mean they have limited connection options and unless passengers overnight in London, Malta is the only inbound market to connect to these departures.

However, inbound Norwegian flights will have significantly more potential connectivity from the easyJet network, with both Denver and Seattle connecting into mid-morning short haul departure waves to deliver connectivity options to both markets. Again, the split schedules to Buenos Aires and Singapore deliver strong onward connection options from London. All Norwegian’s US routes have strong transfer options at Gatwick with the only exception its second New York rotation, a day flight that arrives into the UK capital late in the evening.

As a recent CAPA – Centre for Aviation Insights analysis highlights, if easyJet is to is to make the connecting process effective, it will need to work on improving its punctuality record. The ‘easyJet’s new connections service breakthrough leap-frogs Ryanair; punctuality will need to improve‘ report says the airline’s 15 minute on time performance (OTP) has slipped from 88% of flights in its FY2012 (financial year to October) to 77% in FY2016. In 1H2017, it slipped to 80% from 82% in 1H2016, but there was a 4ppt improvement in 3Q2017 (to 79%) to bring the 9M level in line with last year’s 79%. Outside the UK, easyJet’s OTP is 2ppts better, underlining its punctuality problems at Gatwick in particular (although it actually performs better there than most of its competitors).