Norwegian boss sees UK as “the heart” of airline’s continued global long haul expansion, but USA still remains the lifeblood of the operation

Norwegian chief executive Bjorn Kjos says that despite the continued business uncertainty being driven by Brexit negotiations, the United Kingdom will remain “the heart” of the airline’s long haul low cost growth and the first market to experience the new enhancements that it is introducing into its long-haul aircraft.

Speaking in London ahead of the debut of the airline’s first route into South America linking London Gatwick with Buenos Aires in Argentina, Mr Kjos outlined significant plans to grow the UK into one of the carrier’s most significant markets and introduce new direct flights to more underserved markets both to the East and West.

After launching its low cost long haul network out of London Gatwick to the United States of America (USA) in 2014, the airline now flies across the Atlantic to eleven destinations in the country, adding Buenos Aires to its network from 14-Feb-2018 (a route that will soon have added connections in South America through the launch of Norwegian Air Argentina). Just a single destination is served eastbound with a connection to Singapore introduced last year.

“The UK will be at the heart of our continued global expansion and we remain fully committed to the market. With huge global ambitions, we’re confident that the UK can offer Norwegian a springboard to further expansion.” Bjorn Kjos, chief executive officer, Norwegian

Norwegian has since flown more than 2 million passengers on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner trans-Atlantic routes at London Gatwick part of an annual UK network that handled 5.1 million passengers in 2017 and also includes trans-Atlantic flights from Belfast and Edinburgh (as well as Cork, Dublin and Shannon in the Republic of Ireland) using single-aisle airliners.

Alongside Buenos Aires, new direct flights from London to Austin and Chicago will commence in Mar-2018 and Mr Kjos identified that other US markets are under consideration as it prepares to formalise the deployment plans for its new Airbus A321neoLR. Eight aircraft will arrive in 2019 and will be used to fly UK intercontinental services from 2020. It plans to use the aircraft between London and the US East Coast and Midwest with cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Minneapolis revealed as examples of destinations that could be served. Norwegian is also considering routes to the Middle East using the type.

Additional 787 arrivals will fuel growth in South America and Asia. The airline says it is exploring potential new routes to more South American countries due to strong ticket sales for its Buenos Aires route. Further Asia expansion will build upon the successful launch of the world’s longest low-cost route to Singapore with destinations such as Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing planned, but only if the airline receives access to the Siberian corridor, the most efficient and direct routing across Russia to the Far East.

Ahead of any further network growth, UK passengers will be the first to experience Norwegian’s new cabin upgrades which will debut on ten new Dreamliners entering the airline’s fleet in 2018. These will feature a new expanded 56-seat Premium cabin and will replace the current Gatwick-based Dreamliner fleet, which will be redeployed to other parts of the network.

CHART – London Gatwick is the second largest point in the Norwegian network by international seat capacity behind Oslo Gardermoen airport in NorwaySource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG (data: w/c 12-Feb-2018)

Long-haul Wi-Fi, already available on its short haul network, will be rolled out from the end of this year on both the 787 and 737MAX aircraft. Norwegian plans to offer a free Wi-Fi option for general browsing and a paid high-speed option, fast enough to stream movies and TV shows.

Alongside the expanded premium offering and connectivity, the airline is also seeking to attract more business passengers and boost average yields with increased long-haul frequencies enhancing flexibility. The proposition for these customers will be further enhanced with complimentary lounge access being included with Premium seat bookings. More flights are being offered from London to Buenos Aires, Fort Lauderdale and Los Angeles, while Norwegian is still working to secure slots to introduce a third daily New York rotation.