Norwegian to enter Brazil market with Rio de Janeiro service

Scandinavian low-cost carrier Norwegian has unveiled plans to “break the monopoly” on flights from the UK to Brazil, with its first service from London Gatwick to Rio de Janeiro set to begin in March 2019. The airline is also making a series of changes to its US network.

Less than four months after being cleared to launch flights to Brazil, Norwegian has revealed details of its first planned flights to the South American country.

From 31 March 2019, the low-cost carrier will open a four-weekly service from London Gatwick to Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International.

Flights will operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday using Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft with up to 344 seats in an economy and premium cabin configuration.

“We’re building on our expansive global network by launching the UK’s most affordable flights to Brazil and making South America available to even more consumers,” said Bjorn Kjos, chief executive of Norwegian.

“Our new Rio de Janeiro route breaks the monopoly on direct flights between the UK and Brazil as we’re committed to lowering fares and making travel more affordable for all holidaymakers and business travellers.

“Brazil is a fantastic addition to our global network and we look forward to welcoming customers on board.”

The only flights between the UK and Brazil are currently operated by oneworld alliance partners British Airways and LATAM Airlines Group. The two airlines signed a codeshare deal in September 2015 and entered into a joint business agreement in January the following year.

Data from OAG Schedules Analyser (for w/c 26 November 2018) shows that British Airways operates a nine-weekly service from London Heathrow to São Paulo-Guarulhos and a seven-weekly from Heathrow to Rio de Janeiro-Antônio Carlos Jobim. LATAM also operates a seven-weekly service between Heathrow and São Paulo-Guarulhos.

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport, said: “This pioneering service to Rio de Janeiro builds on the exceptional choice of destinations and fares already on offer for Gatwick passengers, which has grown to more than 60 direct long haul routes.

“The UK’s connectivity into South America is extremely important for the future and a new direct, affordable route to Brazil will provide exciting opportunities for both business and leisure travellers.”

The new route to Rio de Janeiro follows Norwegian’s existing service to South America with direct flights from London to the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires. The Gatwick-Buenos Aires route will increase from four weekly flights to a daily service from 3 December in response to customer demand.

In October, the airline launched domestic flights in Argentina with two routes from Buenos Aires to Mendoza and Cordoba ahead of planned new routes to Salta, Iguazú, Bariloche and Neuquén.

Two-way capacity between UK and Brazil (2013-18):

In addition to the launch of flights to Brazil, Norwegian is making a series of changes to its US network in summer 2019. From 31 March, the carrier will serve Miami International and San Francisco from London Gatwick, replacing its existing flights to Fort Lauderdale and Oakland.

The airline will operate daily flights to Miami, up from four-weekly services to Fort Lauderdale last summer and five-weekly services to San Francisco. The change in airport destination reflects "customer demand and the increased cargo capabilities" these airports offer Norwegian Cargo.

Norwegian will continue operating its increased services from London Gatwick to New York JFK with three-daily flights and a daily service to Buenos Aires in summer 2019. The airline’s newly launched twice-weekly Tampa route will also feature alongside non-stop flights to Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Orlando and Seattle.