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I’ve been writing about Norwegian quite a bit recently and almost all of it has been about how the airline is taking measures to get its financials in order and stem the outflow of cash that can’t go on for much longer.
We’ve seen the airline cancel all its Caribbean routes, post a 4Q $210m loss in fuel hedges alone, refinance aircraft, sell aircraft and announce a rights issue to raise some much-needed cash…but now Norwegian has reverted to type and has announced two new routes across the Atlantic.
I have to admit that this news caught me a little off-guard as I was under the (wrong) impression that Norwegian was in full retrenchment mode and battening down the hatches while it shored up its position.
Clearly there’s some fight left in the airline yet.
Norwegian’s New Transatlantic Routes
Both of Norwegian’s new routes are to be seasonal (summer season) but, nevertheless, they’re ambitious.
Chicago – Barcelona
Norwegian plans to operate a service between Chicago and Barcelona 4x/week between 7 June and 26 October 2019 on the following schedule:
DY7156 ORD 18:30 – 09:50+1 day BCN (Mon, Wed & Fri)
DY7156 ORD 20:30 – 11:50+1 day BCN (Sat)
DY7155 BCN 14:05 – 16:30 ORD (Mon, Wed & Fri)
DY7155 BCN 15:55 – 18:20 ORD (Sat)
New York (JFK) – Athens
Between 2 July and 26 October 2019 Norwegian plans to offer a 4x/week service between New York JFK and Athens on the following schedule:
DY7030 JFK 00:30 – 16:40 ATH (Tue & Sat)
DY7030JFK 12:55 – 05:05+1 day ATH (Wed & Sun)
DY7029 ATH 09:25 – 12:55 JFK (Mon & Fri)
DY7029 ATH 07:55 – 11:25 JFK (Wed & Sun)
Both routes will be operated by Norwegian’s 787-9 Dreamliners.
The new Barcelona service from Chicago will operate has one-way fares starting at $199.90 in Economy and $669.90 in Premium including taxes while the new service between Athens and New York JFK is offering one-way fares from $159.90 in Economy and $669.90 in Premium including taxes.
On the New York – Athens route Norwegian will be facing competition from Delta and Emirates out of JFK and United out of Newark so the carrier is taking a serious risk here.
I can understand Norwegian going up against Emirates as it doesn’t really have a comparable offering to Norwegian but Delta and United certainly do – Basic Economy.
With United and Delta also being able to feed traffic into their New York bases Norwegian is going to have its work cut out to make this route work well.
The story is a little different on the Chicago – Barcelona route where there’s only once direct competitor. This route is home to a low-cost carrier (in terms of offering) masquerading as a full service carrier – American Airlines.
This is going to be interesting because American Airlines offers Basic Economy fares across the Atlantic and it also offers a Dreamliner with very similar seating to what Norwegian’s Dreamliners offer so the main differentiation between the two will be on price….and Norwegian clearly thinks that’s where it can beat American.
Norwegian won’t have decided to go up against American without careful consideration so it clearly senses weakness (despite American’s feeder traffic) and must feel that it can undercut and outperform American during the peak summer months.
Also, the American Airlines 787-8 that’s scheduled to operate the Chicago – Barcelona route will offer a Premium Economy cabin so it won’t only be Economy Class passengers that the airlines will be fighting for.
Norwegian’s Premium cabin is actually pretty impressive (for a Premium Economy cabin) and offers considerably more legroom than American’s alternative so it will be interesting to see how the battle for that market pans out.
I love the fight that Norwegian is showing right now but what I love even more is that it’s taking the fight directly to American Airlines on one of the new routes it announced today (I’m not sure about the sanity in going up against both Delta and United in New York).
With the transatlantic routes dominated by powerful airline groups and joint ventures it’s fantastic to see an airline like Norwegian (who, let’s face it, is not having the best of times right now) still prepared to make a fight of it.
It’s going to be very interesting to watch how these two routes pan out for Norwegian and it will be especially interesting to see how the battle with American pans out – this could get messy!