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‘Norwegian Mark 2’ is here, flying UK to US with a Boeing 787. What could go wrong?

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Welcome, Norse Atlantic Airways. Laugh or cry, but you haven’t seen the end of Norway’s attempts to succeed in low-cost long-haul flying.

With the original airline now virtually dead, flying just a handful of routes in Norway, founder Bjorn Kjos is back with a new airline.

Say hello to Norse Atlantic Airways

Norse Atlantic Airways will use a fleet of Boeing 787s (sounds familiar?) to connect cities such as New York, Los Angeles and Miami with London, Paris and Oslo (sounds familiar?).

The airline is even using the exact same aircraft that Norwegian used, so you will be seeing the old Norwegian seating back in action. Norse Atlantic has apparently signed deals to lease nine ex-Norwegian Boeing 787 aircraft and is in discussions over a further three.

The three founding shareholders, including Kjos, have raised $24 million according to Norwegian publication Dagens Naeringsliv.

Does Norse Atlantic have any hope of succeeding?

Is this idea totally crazy? It could go either way.

Part of the reason that Norwegian failed was that it had bet its future on the Boeing 787 and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. This was unfortunate, to put it mildly.

The Rolls-Royce powered variant of the Boeing 787 suffered technical issues for many years. It was only late last year that Virgin Atlantic finally had a fully functioning Boeing 787 fleet. Despite having other aircraft as back-up, Virgin had been forced to lease four ex-airberlin A330-200 aircraft so it could operate its planned schedule.

Norse Atlantic AIrways

Norwegian was hit harder, and the chances of your flight being cancelled or swapped to a random charter airline were high. EC261 compensation payments were substantial. It even happened to us on a HfP review flight, although that one worked in Anika’s favour as her Premium seat was swapped for a flat bed.

Simply having a fleet which is reliable puts Norse Atlantic in a good place.

I also have little doubt that Norse Atlantic has struck an excellent deal for its aircraft. There are not many people rushing to lease 12 Boeing 787 aircraft at the moment. It will launch with a cost advantage and, as the aircraft all came from Norwegian, a standardised fleet both internally and mechanically.

The timing is either great – to meet the travel recovery of 2022 – or terrible, if flight prices are cut to the bone as legacy airlines find it harder than expected to fill seats.

Norse Atlantic can’t beat the other hard truths about long-haul aviation, unfortunately:

  • the majority of the profit comes from passengers in premium seats, so not having flat bed Business Class puts you at a big disadvantage
  • higher paying corporate travellers will always gravitate to airlines with more daily flights, more ability to get you home if something goes wrong, services to primary airports and a compelling frequent flyer scheme
  • low cost never really means low cost, once you factor in the opportunity cost of inconvenient travel times and secondary airports, as well as baggage, seating – and potentially food and IFE – fees

I wish it well, however. Whilst JetBlue will provide price competition on the UK to New York and Boston routes from late 2021, we need someone else to keep the price pressure on Florida and the US West Coast.

Comments (34)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Paul says:

    I think the idea that legacy airlines will provide discounted travel in the coming weeks is fanciful. BA are already slashing capacity in August and September and I have certainly not seen any deals in premium cabins ex the U.K. since the Swiss/LH 241 sale. Indeed a Mail shot from Turkish yesterday had some of the most ludicrous prices I have seen to Asia for later in the year.
    So long as there are any restrictions to exit/entry or a need for testing and or quarantine then fares will remain eyewateringly high from the U.K. at least.
    EX EU still provides stunning deals, if you can get there and if the flights go ahead!

    • Sam G says:

      Agree. Lots of wide body aircraft on both sides of the Atlantic have been retired (BA 747s, Delta 777, AA A330s, potentially some/all of BA A380s, Virgin 747s etc) and I believe airlines will be cautiously tight on capacity preferring to focus on yield for a couple of years instead. So a few dense 787s on the thickest routes + some leisure focused flights like Orlando might not do badly. I’m sure a very empty Gatwick will be happily giving them a killer deal as well.

  • TGLoyalty says:

    I think an airline providing premium to key USA cities will do well with the business crowd.

    Many large companies only allow premium for flights between 4-8 hours.

    Amazon only allow economy everywhere!

  • Froggitt says:

    I think their timing is perfect. There is so much pent up demand for holidays now….cruise lines can charge double what they were previously. By Autumn, UK and USA will be fully vaccinated.

    • Paul says:

      Yes I have noted the rise in cruise costs. Cunard, with whom I hope to travel in April next year, have certainly increased fares markedly in the Queens grill area and larger suites. The price differential between a queen grill cabin and penthouse is now well over £4000 a week. About 50% more than pre-covid on a Transatlantic crossing. There may be people who will pay this but it simply forced me to look at other top end cruise lines.

      • Sandra says:

        I’m not so sure thinking they can charge what they want won’t backfire. A lot of people, although desperate to get out and travel have got used to spending very little, saving and/or paying off debts and mortgages. It will be interesting to see if that lasts and people decide to continue to re-evaluate and simplify their lives more and that they can live without paying extortionate prices for travel, at least for a few years.

        • ChrisW says:

          This is a very good point. I’ve become accustomed to spending far less in london on things like going out than pre covid and highly doubt I’ll be wasting as much money on that again. £100 at the pub on Friday might was such a waste.

      • J says:

        I’ve heard that cruises are still intending to operate at significantly reduced capacity for the foreseeable future and this is one of the reasons prices have risen. They are also expecting reduced supplementary spending on things like excursions. There isn’t necessarily any greater demand.

  • C says:

    Hasn’t it been said many times that the best way to make a small fortune in the airline business is to start with a large fortune?

    Seriously, I wish them well. I liked Norwegian long-haul, and found the quality to compare favorably with legacy carriers. I never tried the Premium product, but the pricing was quite appealing.

    I do query how much success they will have going head to head with B6 and others from LGW. I know many of us detest the airport, but I have to wonder if there is enough of a market from STN for either B6 or Norse Atlantic– its much more convenient for those of us in East Anglia, still in London catchment but differentiated from LGW (when I lived in central London LGW would win every time, but now selfishly STN looks quite appealing). The only real network options are EK (when it restarts), and TK and PS to SAW; these are fine for eastbound, but not useful westbound. IIRC, AA briefly had a flight STN-BOS or NYC, and Primera Air and others have mooted the idea, but no one has made a serious run for it.

  • Liam says:

    Hopefully this bodes well for the re-opening of travel (presumably once the majority of the two populations have been vaccinated, or cases are super low) between the UK and US over the next few months, whatever your thoughts about this particular airline.

  • Alan says:

    I wonder if companies relying on the premium seats to make a profit are heading for a fall.

    My company is planning on a permanent 75% reduction in overseas business travel costs post Covid.

    Interestingly this is being done as part of our sustainability commitment rather than being cost driven, with the use of business class seats being discouraged as part of Carbon reduction measures.

    Maybe we will get a year or two of good BC availability while companies are still hoping the old norm will return.

    • BuildBackBetter says:

      It’s cost cutting disguised as sustainability.
      While I doubt leisure travelers can hold on to their savings, once costs are cut by corporates, they rarely start splurging again.

    • Joe says:

      Your company has good pr!

  • the_real_a says:

    $24m to secure 6 787s with cabin interiors to spec… or a $38m quote form Airbus to refurbish a single second hand A380 for BA. Seems like a Bargain with no legacy debt.

    • Rhys says:

      At Heathrow, you need to take slot availability into account too. Not an issue over the next couple of years but these 787s have another 20+ years of life.

  • Alex Sm says:

    What’s your predictions about the short-haul part of Norwegian? Will it resurrect? We have about £200 in their points and more coming through surveys but will they last?

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