US to Europe for just $69? Believe it or not, that remarkably low fare may soon be an option – but only if you fly out of certain airports.
Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA announced this week that it hopes to make those low-priced tickets for one-way travel available as early as 2017. The company’s Chief Executive Officer Bjørn Kjos said the bargain flights would be feasible only at airports that have low fees.
Norwegian is Scandinavia’s second largest airline and Europe’s third-largest budget carrier. In the planning stages are flights to Edinburgh and Bergen, Norway, from US airports that have no or almost no international service at this time. Examples would be New York’s Westchester County Airport and Connecticut’s Bradley International Airport, located north of Hartford.
Overall, the average prices on such routes would probably be around $300 round trip. That’s much less than many of Norwegian’s current fares, which run more than $500. The difference is the result of the much busier airports levying higher fees on the airline.
The reduced fare will be part of Norwegian’s move to cut prices overall and take a larger share of the transatlantic market from the traditional flag carriers that currently dominate it.
Bigger players such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG offer hundreds of destinations via connections in airport hubs. Norwegian’s strategy will be to make non-stop service to some of the smaller cities across the Atlantic more common, thereby keeping costs low.
“I think you will see a lot to that effect within five years’ time,” Kjos said. “What will happen to (Lufthansa) when everyone starts to fly direct?”
Norwegian has 100 737 MAX jets from Boeing on order and expects to receive its first five in 2017. The planes are equipped to cross the Atlantic, but their smaller size makes them more feasible for international service to cities such as Birmingham, England, Kjos said.
It will be necessary to place customs stations at the smaller, regional US airports to handle the international traffic. Kjos is confident that can be done without any major problems.
But Norwegian is not the only airline that’s offering cheap fares across the Atlantic.
Iceland’s Wow Air recently advertised one-way fares between Boston and Paris for $99. And Lufthansa’s low-cost subsidiary Eurowings is also starting cheap flights across the pond.
Kjos isn’t worried about competition from Eurowings. He says, “I don’t believe in their being able to operate low cost with a Boeing 767.”
That’s largely because wide-body planes use more fuel and have smaller a range than aircraft like the Boeing Dreamliners Norwegian flies. In other Norwegian news, the company reported Tuesday that it filled 96 percent of long-haul plane seats in September, a result that enabled the airline to post better-than-expected financial numbers.