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Norwegian and the new Era of Transatlantic Travel

When Ryanair started out everyone was used to legacy carriers many look back with fond eyes of a barely edible meal and some very cheap undrinkable wine. Ryanair stopped serving the un-edible meal and charged you for the wine. They went back to basics getting people from A to B for a very cheap price, which is what most people care about. Slowly but surely the legacy carriers followed cut after cut after cut to the point where they are all pretty much Ryanairs. I’m not a huge fan of Marks and Spencer’s sandwiches on the ground and not hugely excited about the prospect of paying BA for one in the air when the opportunity arises. Peoples expectations have changed, helped no doubt by the US carriers. A six hour trans continental flight on United or American in a middle seat is a lot longer than anything Ryanair offers, yet the service is the same if not worse. 

So as time has gone by the inevitable has happened “low cost” transatlantic flights from “regional” airports. This week we had $55 dollar fares from San Francisco to Europe. That’s cheaper than a round-trip Heathrow express ticket. Norwegian started this with direct Routes from Scandinavia and Europe, followed by Wow who operate from Iceland and have connecting flights all over Europe. However the next phase is maybe the most interesting with Norwegians new 737 Ultras flying from the east coast to the UK. Something that nobody Michael O Leary included thought possible a few years ago. 

The “New York” flights will operate out of Stewart airport in New Jersey about 90 minutes from midtown Manhattan, far from convenient but for $200 round-trips to Dublin will make visiting home easier for many people. The once or twice a year trip can be a lot more often if fare levels stay the same. So far the legacy carriers haven’t reacted fares remain in the $600 range going closer to $1000 in the summer months. Presumably they will wait to see how it plays out before making any changes. Norwegian’s issue will be more on the ground than the air, Once people are convinced they can get to the airport they need to make sure security lines/immigration move quickly and prices stay reasonable for food and drink etc. If that works well then the thought of 7 hours on a 737 will be a lot more bearable. If it doesn’t run smoothly then fares alone wont fill those planes. 

I’ll be taking my first trip next month $65 to Edinburgh. I won’t be beating that anytime soon. 

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