When European LCC group Norwegian launches service from London Gatwick to Singapore on 28-Sep-2017, it will become the longest route in Norwegian’s network – and the longest route by any LCC globally.
London-Singapore is a large market but is currently only served nonstop in both directions by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and British Airways. Prior to its partnership with Emirates, Qantas was also a significant player in the market, but today the route is a duopoly. Not for much longer. When the aggressive LCC Norwegian enters, it should be able to stimulate new demand and attract even passengers who are now flying on competitively priced one-stop products, such as Turkish or the Gulf carriers.
For Australian travellers, it also offers the first chance ever to fly one-stop over Singapore to London on all-LCC airlines. AirAsia X had a one-stop Australia-London product over Kuala Lumpur, until 2012 when they dropped London due to steep rising fuel prices at the time (utilising fuel guzzling A340s). This provided a better product as it was serviced by one carrier allowing for easier connections etc. It is believed AirAsia X will be back in this market soon and achieve greater results than Norwegian.
It will however not be a pushover for Norwegian. This is a highly competitive market, with some of the lowest fares in the world.
Unlike Norwegian’s competitor hub carriers – who aggregate different traffic flows onto the long haul route – it will need to rely mainly on the local Singapore-London market. The LCC doesn’t have partners to feed it passengers at each end. However, travel savvy and cost conscious travellers are increasingly able to arrange for self-connections; ironically, one such option for Australian travellers could include the low cost operations of SIA’s low cost subsidiary Scoot.
So, for example, if you were to book to fly Sydney-London on 24-Oct-2017, returning on 29-Oct-2017, the total round trip fare, connecting between Scoot and Norwegian would be AUD861 (That’s Scoot at AUD356 and Norwegian at SGD518).
The cheapest comparable R/T fare over Singapore – which is on British Airways – is AUD1,392, AUD500 more. (Meanwhile, Air China, over Beijing, comes in at AUD1,043).
For Norwegian, you pay extra for a checked bag, at around AUD40 each way; if you want a meal each way, that will also cost about AUD40 each way. So it’s pretty easy to add on AUD160 or so to the basic fare, taking it to around AUD1,000 R/T. So you take some sandwiches and water and save AUD80 each.
So it’s cheap, and there will be plenty of cheap seats – whereas the full service airlines will limit the numbers more carefully.
For those road warriors who will pay a bit more to use each airline’s premium cabins – pretty close to premium economy, although not as good as SIA’s premium economy – the total fare will come in at around AUD3220. Now that’s very similar to the Cathay and Singapore Airlines’ premium economies.
Bear in mind that the full service airlines will have fewer tickets available at the cheapest fares, so the differentials will probably grow as the travel dates near.