Low-cost Norwegian takes on BA in the long haul

Low-cost Norwegian takes on BA in the long haul

Norwegian has announced flights from Gatwick to Buenos Aires, its third long haul market after the United States and Singapore

The former fighter pilot behind Norwegian Air Shuttle has opened up a new front in the low- cost battle with British Airways.

The fast-growing budget airline has unveiled Argentina as its latest route from London, as it continues its long-haul expansion.

Announcing the Gatwick-to-Buenos Aires flights, Norwegian’s first foray into South America and its third long-haul market after the United States and Singapore, Bjorn Kjos said that fares would start from £299 and vowed to break the “monopoly” on the route.

Mr Kjos raised the prospect of Norwegian flying to other destinations in the region, including Brazil and Chile.

“Argentina is the first goal but it’s true there’s incredibly high fares to these countries and it shouldn’t be that expensive,” he said.

Norwegian, which flies from five UK airports to more than 50 destinations, mostly in Europe, has been upping the stakes as airlines battle with a price war, a steadying in the oil price and dented consumer confidence after a spate of terrorist attacks.

Since taking market share in Europe by slashing fares, Norwegian has been targeting the lucrative long-haul market, flying to nine cities in America, including New York and Los

Angeles and now to the land of the tango, below, with the prospect of further expansion in the Far East as well.

It has been encroaching on the established US carriers as well as BA, owned by IAG, and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic.

However, Mr Kjos, 70, who took over as boss of Norwegian in 2002, sought to play down the threat to BA, saying “they know how to compete”.

“I think Willie Walsh [IAG’s chief executive] is a smart guy. They like competition. They will see this as good competition. They have a very good operation.”

This year IAG launched Level, its low-cost airline offering transatlantic flights, initially from Barcelona and to four destinations, including Buenos Aires. Flights to Argentina are promoted as from €269 (£237) on Level’s website.

Norwegian is looking at potential flights from Spain to Argentina.

Travelling to South America is very expensive, Mr Kjos said. “If you get the price down you will see a big jump in volume.”

A more expensive one-way fare from £699 is also being offered by Norwegian, though, with “more than a metre of legroom, complimentary meal services and generous baggage allowance and airport lounge access”.

Norwegian, which is known for the famous characters on its tailfins, is targeting the leisure market and is searching for cities which are potentially under tapped by tourists and are politically stable.

The carrier is positioning itself as a pioneer in bringing down the cost of long-haul travel, mimicking what Easyjet and Ryanair have done with short-haul flights. It is in talks with the latter over a potential partnership that would connect Ryanair’s short-haul flights to Norwegian’s long-haul.

“All the fares will come down,” Mr Kjos said. “It’s no secret that the fares on long-haul have been extremely high compared to short-haul and we will see volumes increasing because the fares are coming down.”

Norwegian’s strategy is made viable by its fleet of 787 Dreamliners, which Boeing has said are 20 per cent more fuel efficient than older wide-body aircraft.

Mr Kjos is unfazed by regulatory headaches from Britain leaving the EU. “We are somewhat neutral because we have a UK airline. We have an operation based in Ireland, that’s our EU operation.”


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