Norwegian set to open up to four 737MAX bases for 2017 transatlantic growth

European low-cost carrier Norwegian is set to open four new operational bases – two in the US and two in Europe – in 2017 to support the growth of its long-haul transatlantic network. The internal go-ahead for the expansion follows the final approval late last week by the US Department of Transportation for a foreign carrier permit for the airline’s Norwegian Air International business.

European low-cost carrier Norwegian is set to open four new operational bases – two in the US and two in Europe – in 2017 to support the growth of its long-haul transatlantic network. The internal go-ahead for the expansion follows the final approval late last week by the US Department of Transportation for a foreign carrier permit for the airline’s Norwegian Air International business.

After waiting three years for this approval, Norwegian’s founder and chief executive officer, Bjørn Kjos, has confirmed that the airline will introduce two additional pilot and cabin crew bases in the United States next year.

“In October this year, Norwegian announced it would open its first U.S. pilot base at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Now that we finally have our DOT approval for Norwegian Air International, I’m pleased to announce that we will also be opening a second and third pilot base in the US, and Norwegian will create at least another 150 new American pilot and cabin crew jobs in 2017,” he said.

In mid-2017, Norwegian will become the European launch-customer of the new Boeing 737-MAX and the new aircraft type will operate transatlantic flights from the Northeastern US to parts of Europe and open up a plethora of routes and destinations currently not served from the US over the next few years, confirmed the airline.

Six aircraft are due for delivery in 2017 – two in May and four in June – and the airline confirmed that at least four of the Boeing 737s will be based in the Greater New York City area and the Greater Boston area next year. However, in keeping with the low-cost model this will likely see the aircraft not based at major city gateways, but instead at Stewart International Airport in Orange County, New York and TF Green International Airport in Providence, Rhode Island.

Norwegian has confirmed its New York area plans, but said it has not made a final decision on its operations for the Boston area with the Pease Development Authority in New Hampshire stating that it remains in negotiations with Norwegian to bring the international carrier to the Portsmouth International Airport in Rockingham County, New Hampshire.

However, recruitment documentation sent to Routesonline highlights TF Green International Airport as the base for its latest Boston area activities. The airline is also reported to be exploring transatlantic routes from Bradley International Airport in Hartford, Connecticut which has a single current transatlantic link to Dublin with Aer Lingus. 

On the European side, a new 737MAX base is expected to be established at Edinburgh Airport in Scotland, UK, which may also see the introduction of 787 Dreamliner operations, while Riga International Airport in Latvia will become home to a 737-800 operation which will also support the strong O&D flows already in place in and out of the US market. Both bases are due to officially open late in the second quarter or early in the third quarter of 2017.

The US DOT ruling also finally allows Norwegian to launch its long-planned flights into the US from Cork Airport. Initially serving the Boston area and later also the New York area, these will operate at launch with 737-800 equipment before transitioning to the 737MAX at a later date. Norwegian says the full plans for Irish transatlantic routes, which will also include flights from Shannon, will be unveiled in early 2017 with first flights to commence next summer. 

“This is momentous news for air travellers on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s great news for Open Skies and for consumer choice and competition,” said Niall MacCarthy, managing director, Cork Airport after learning of the US DOT’s ruling.

“I firmly believe this will permanently transform the transatlantic market in Ireland and further afield for the better. Norwegian will do for transatlantic travel what Ryanair has done for European travel, bringing lower fares, increased competition and growth to the overall market,” he added.

Alongside the single-aisle growth, Norwegian will also add to its network across the Atlantic with nine additional 787 Dreamliners due for delivery in 2017. The airline confirms that two aircraft will be based at its Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport base with local crews for the first aircraft beginning training in March 2017.

The airline confirms the arrival of a second aircraft at Fort Lauderdale later in 2017 and this will be used to introduce new long-haul links to possible points like Edinburgh, Manchester and other European points from around the start of the winter 2017/2018 schedule.

Norwegian has this winter launched flights from Las Vegas to London and Oslo and will expand from the US with a new Fort Lauderdale to Guadeloupe link starting from December 17, 2016.  It has already announced new flights for 2017 from the US including: Oakland/San Francisco to Copenhagen (March 28, 2017); Los Angeles to Barcelona (June 5, 2017); New York/Newark to Barcelona (June 6, 2017); Oakland/San Francisco to Barcelona (June 7, 2017); and Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona (August 22, 2017). Last month it also announced a new route from Orlando to Paris, launching from July 31, 2017.

Norwegian has also confirmed it will significantly expand its operations between London Gatwick and the US in 2017, adding ten weekly frequencies across five routes. First revealed by airlineroute over the past weekend, Norwegian will add flights to Fort Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Oakland, Orlando and notably a second daily rotation into New York. The latter will be a same day operation departing London at 6am (arriving in JFK at 09am) and New York at 12pm (arriving back into Gatwick just before 12am) which will launch from August 10, 2017 and grow New York frequencies from seven to 13 a week.

"Our U.S.-London flights are more popular than ever and customer demand shows low-cost long-haul flights are not only here to stay, but also quickly becoming the norm for cost-conscious travelers. By increasing the number of transatlantic flights on our U.S.-London routes, we are giving tourists and business passengers more flexibility, attractive fares and convenient schedules," said, Thomas Ramdahl, chief commercial officer, Norwegian.

The arrival of one additional 787 at Gatwick Airport in April will see Los Angeles grow to a daily operation from April 15, 2017 with the addition of two further flights; flight to/from Fort Lauderdale will grow from once to twice weekly from April 17, 2017 and Oakland International will be served five times weekly, up from three times weekly from April 18, 2017. A third weekly Orlando International frequencies will follow from April 20, 2017.  A second 787 arrival in August 2017 will facilitate the growth of the New York operation.

Norwegian is known to be also looking at long-haul destinations outside of the US and Ramdahl confirmed to TTG Media, publishers of our Routes News magazine that Buenos Aires, Argentina and Havana, Cuba were top of the wish list in Americas, while a number of unnamed destinations in Asia were also under consideration. The new routes will be subject to securing the relevant traffic rights.

“It’s no surprise that we’ve been looking at Buenos Aires as a destination and also Havana. Hopefully by the next winter programme, kicking off in November 2017, we will have that in place," he said. “The Asia part I am keeping to myself, but it won’t be Bangkok.”