Bold Move: Norwegian Moves Routes To Serve US Hub Airports

a red and white airplane on a runway

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There has been a lot of speculation in the media about Norwegian’s financial health and the recent near-collapse of its fellow transatlantic low-cost carrier WOW has done little to quieten that speculation…but Norwegian doesn’t seem to care.

British Airways may be hovering in the wings like a vulture (if vultures cold hover) ready to pick away at the carcass should Norwegian stumble and fall, but Norwegian appears intent on carrying on as normal and taking the fight to the established legacy carriers (I love that).

Yesterday Norwegian announced that it will be taking on British Airways head-to-head on the London – Rio de Janeiro route (BA currently has a monopoly on this route) and today the low-cost carrier has announced that it will be refocusing two transatlantic routes in a further attempt to steal market share from the legacy carriers.

a city with many tall buildings

Part of Norwegian’s transatlantic strategy (to date) has been to offer flights to secondary airports when costs and competition dictate that serving a city’s primary airport makes little economic sense…but that’s now changing.

From 31 March 2019 Norwegian will replace its flights between London to Oakland with flights between London to San Francisco and it will replace its flights between London and Ft. Lauderdale with flights between London and Miami.

The Miami route will operate 4x/week on the following schedule:

DI7043 LGW 10:00 – 14:20 MIA
DI7044 MIA 16:30 – 05:50+1 day LGW

And the new San Francisco route will operate 5x/week on the following schedule:

DI7173 LGW 13:30 – 16:30 SFO (Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri & Sun)
DI7174 SFO 18:30 – 12:40+1 day LGW (Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri & Sun)

Norwegian will operate both routes using its Boeing 787 Dreamliners but it’s having to reduce some services to free up the necessary aircraft.

The London – LA route will move to a daily service and Chicago will see service from London Gatwick cut to 4x/week.

Thoughts

This is a bold move by Norwegian as it’s moving from offering services on routes where there is limited competition to routes where the competition could be fierce.

On the routes from London to Oakland and Ft. Lauderdale Norwegian has only ever had to worry about competition from British Airways (and BA gave up the fight on the Oakland route last month) but the routes from London to Miami and San Francisco are packed with legacy carriers.

Miami is a major hub for American Airlines, San Francisco is a major hub for United and, as if that wasn’t enough competition, Norwegian will also have to contend with the likes of British Airways & Virgin Atlantic on these routes too.

airplanes at an airport

The low-cost carrier says that it’s taken the decision to make these “strategic changes” to meet “customer demand and the increased cargo capabilities these airports offer Norwegian Cargo” but it must know that it’s taking quite a risk here.

I can’t see the legacy carriers taking kindly to a low-cost carrier muscling in on their territory and there’s every chance we could see a fare war break out as the established airlines try to run Norwegian out of town.

In the short-term a fare war would be good news for consumers but the longer term fall-out could be bad if this all backfires on Norwegian.

Consumers need a viable transatlantic low-cost carrier to help keep the legacy airlines in check so, if this move goes badly wrong and Norwegian is weakened to a point where it becomes easy prey for BA, another competitor to the legacies will disappear and transatlantic fares will soon be on the rise.

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