Cheap flights: London to New York for £150 – is it possible?
Budget airline Norwegian takes on British Airways and Virgin with cheap transatlantic flights
A SCANDINAVIAN budget airline has announced plans to sell one-way tickets from London to New York for less than £150. Norwegian Air Shuttle plans to offer three flights a week starting in July next year. It is a cheaper alternative to flights offered by established rivals such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which currently offer multiple flights a day from Heathrow to New York, with return tickets starting at £441.
So how can it afford to do this?
Norwegian's chief executive officer, Bjoern Kjos, puts it down to the airline's new generation of more fuel-efficient passenger jets. This includes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which is smaller than other long-haul aircraft and has lower maintenance requirements. Norwegian plans to buy eight of the Dreamliners in total, enabling passengers to fly from London Gatwick to New York's John F Kennedy airport for a fraction of the current cost.
Will passengers have to pay for extras?
Seat-back entertainment is included in the ticket price but passengers wanting meals, a baggage allowance and reserved seating will have to pay £30 for an 'extras package'.
Have any airlines done this before?
Yes, Laker Airways briefly offered low-cost flights across the Atlantic but the airline went bust in 1982. Kjos says there is "great demand" for high-quality flights at a low price between the UK and the US, particularly to and from London Gatwick, as no other airline flies to the city from there.
Will Norwegian introduce any other routes?
The airline will also introduce twice-weekly flights to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and to Los Angeles, for under £200, starting from next July. It currently offers 320 weekly flights and 25 routes from London Gatwick and plans to add more frequent flights to its existing destinations: Malaga, Ibiza, Split, Dubrovnik, Majorca, Faro, Tenerife, Copenhagen and Barcelona. Kjos, who is a former fighter pilot, told the Financial Times his next big target is to run extensive long-haul flights between Asia and Europe. He hopes to secure access rights to China and India within two years.
Will other airlines follow Norwegian's lead?
Ryanair's Michael O'Leary announced plans to introduce transatlantic flights from "around ten bucks" last month. Although he swiftly added that "clearly" not all fares would be that price. But this is unlikely to happen for a while. O'Leary hopes he can introduce the route in around four years once Ryanair can afford to buy the long-haul aircraft required. He told the World Low Cost Airlines Congress last month that his airline had been priced out of the market by Gulf state airlines that had made "gargantuan" orders for the aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.