Norwegian will increase the pressure on UK and US legacy carriers with the further expansion of its transatlantic network between the two countries. Much was made recently about British Airways’ (BA) decision to introduce its own flights from London Gatwick to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland International, two markets that Norwegian has developed from the UK capital. Now the low-cost long-haul carrier is seemingly retaliating by bring competition into two city pairs that BA has for much of the past ten years been the exclusive operator.
Norwegian has confirmed it will launch flights from both Denver International Airport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to London’s Gatwick Airport this September. With these additions, it will now offer nine non-stop routes to destinations across the United States from its London base, serving more city pair markets than any US airline.
“Our new Seattle and Denver routes reflect the huge consumer demand on both sides of the Atlantic for quality affordable long-haul travel," said Thomas Ramdahl, chief commercial officer, Norwegian, adding that its existing flights into the USA are operating at occupancy levels of over 90 per cent.
Service between London and Denver will launch on September 16, 2017 with twice-weekly flights on Tuesdays and Saturdays during the summer season. Service will increase to three times per week, adding Thursdays, beginning from the start of the winter season from November 2, 2017. Flights between London and Seattle will launch from September 17, 2017, with four flights per week on Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays. Both routes will be flown using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner equipment.
Norwegian’s arrival in the London – Denver market will end BA’s monopoly in the city pair. Although United Airlines did offer a summer operation between 2008 and 2010, BA’s daily London Heathrow link is the only non-stop service between the two cities, generating around 190,000 annual passengers, according to official UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) data.
“Norwegian’s announcement today of nonstop service to London further solidifies Denver’s position as a global city,” said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. The city, which hosted Routes Americas in 2015, has subsequently been growing its European connectivity and chief executive officer, Kim Day, believes the new low-fare offering from Norwegian will not only “stimulate the market and increase travel” between Denver and London, but also providing access to “other points in Norwegian’s larger European network”.
While BA may no longer hold a monopoly in the London – Seattle market it has been the incumbent operator over the past couple of decades, offering two daily rotations in and out of London Heathrow. Delta Air Lines brought competition to the market from March 2014 and only last month transferred the route to its transatlantic joint venture partner Virgin Atlantic Airways. The arrival of a second operator has grown traffic from around 200,000 annual passengers in 2013 to almost 333,000 passengers in 2014, CAA data shows, with this growth continuing in 2015 to 350,000 passengers and last year to 370,000 passengers.
“Norwegian’s choice to serve Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is a testament to our region’s economic growth,” said Michael Ehl , operations director, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. “Sea-Tac’s total passenger volume has grown 40 per cent in just five years, and Norwegian’s Boeing 787-9 service will provide more options to travellers, as well as promote tourism and trade in the region.”