Norwegian’s cheap 737s across the Atlantic are here!

Norwegian is set to commence its Transatlantic 737 service this summer, announcing routes, launch dates and, perhaps most important, incredibly low fares to entice travelers to choose carrier and its operations from smaller gateway airports in New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. As is typical for the company these days the launch is not a timid move. Ten new routes will fly starting 15 June 2017, connecting five cities in Ireland and the British Isles with Hartford; Providence, RI and Newburgh, NY.

The new 737MAX routes from Norwegian.
The new 737MAX routes across the Atlantic from Norwegian.
Only two of the routes – Newburgh/Stewart to Edinburgh and Dublin – will see daily service in the Summer to start. Most of the rest of the flights will operate 2x or 3x weekly. In total the ten routes will see 38 weekly round trip services, moving between 5 and 6 737s back and forth aircraft across the Atlantic each day. During the winter season that number drops to 25 weekly frequencies and only the Newburgh/Edinburgh service remaining daily. Cork, theoretically the city that launched the discussions 737 flights across the Atlantic for Norwegian, gets 3x weekly service in the summer and 2x in the winter from Providence.

Dublin, Edinburgh and Shannon have proven demand for Transatlantic service, though a significant portion of the Dublin traffic is connecting onward in Europe. On the US side Hartford just recently added Dublin flights while Providence has service from Azores Airlines and Cabo Verde Airlines. Providence also recently had seasonal service from Condor Airlines but that was not renewed after the 2016 season.

For Cork and Newburgh/Stewart these are the first Transatlantic flights to operate. It is also a massive increase in lift at Newburgh. The airport has service from Delta, American, Jetblue and Allegiant today but that total lift averages well under 500 daily seats. Norwegian’s five daily flights to Europe will be double that volume, very quickly changing the dynamics of the airport operations.

For Belfast it is a resumption of service that was lost when United Airlines pulled out in January 2017 after the local airport subsidies were found to run afoul of EU laws. The airport authority followed up on that ruling with a renewed effort to attract service with appropriate marketing subsidies which Norwegian is the beneficiary of. Moreover, the UK APD fee for long-haul departures from Belfast remains low, allowing this to be one of the least expensive markets for Transatlantic service (and one where Norwegian can charge a little more in base fare and still keep the bottom line number for travelers lower).

The carrier is branding the Providence flights as serving the Boston area while the Newburgh flights receive a New York City-area designator. In both cases the airport served is well more than an hour from the named market. That has potential to frustrate travelers, especially with limited convenient transit infrastructure available. Norwegian suggests that it could operate a bus service to help connect New York City customers to its flights, similar to what Ryanair has done in some of its more remote European “city” airport offerings. Moreover, the catchment area for these airports include millions of people who live outside the associated cities. Drawing just on those population bases could be sufficient to support the service.

With the less-than-daily services on most routes it is unlikely that Norwegian will be looking to feed passengers onward at either end. This is all about the local markets at either end. And with fares starting at $65 one way (plus plenty of fees for “extras” like a bag or seat assignment or meal on board) there’s a decent chance the market can be stimulated to deliver profits to Norwegian and  holiday services to travelers on both sides of the pond. Of course, the fares are not always $65. For summer travel between Newburgh/Stewart and Edinburgh fares north of $200 (and often close to $300) are more the norm than the exception.

As for me, I’m excited about the potential the new routes present and very, very interested to see if the smaller markets can support regular flights. Many of these destinations are places I want to visit (or visit again) and I’ve been known to sacrifice personal comfort from time to time to save some money on a trip. The balance between traveling more and traveling better is a tenuous one. I’m also a little sad that timing of the inaugural flight from Stewart to Edinburgh might not fit my schedule this summer.

Header image: A Norwegian 737MAX rendering; image from the company.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. The more I look at it, the more I think that this will be feasible for me on westbound trips. Especially if the wifi is working. I want to visit more of the smaller cities and this mostly lets me do it.

    But if I’m paying $300+ in base fare (which is more common than not) then you’d better believe I’m shopping it around heavily to make sure it is worth the additional fees and inconvenience of the airports on the US side. Then again, if I lived in the Hudson Valley of Ne York I’d be pretty excited to avoid JFK/EWR and be so close to home when I land. And if I’d be flying in regular Y on the flights anyways then the comfort levels aren’t all that different.

    1. All of that is true – and these are flights that really only work for those who live near the US airports they’re serving. Onward connections are non-existent for most of us who don’t. Still, they’d have to be saving me a TON of money for me to take one of these over an economy fare on either DL or UA, both of which I can easily get into an extra legroom seat for free – and get seat assignments and checked bags for free as well.

      But, as I previously said, I know I’m not their target customer.

    2. The problem for you is getting to SWF from NYC. Which can be a pain in the neck (involves Metro-North to Beacon and taxi/bus or Salisbury Mills / Taxi). For those who live in Westchester/NJ and who have a car it makes good sense to fly from SWF.

    3. Indeed, Barry, one of the biggest questions is how large that Hudson Valley market will be. Or the South Boston market. Pretending this is marketed to NYC residents is fun for getting press but mostly misses on reality IMO.

    4. I’m already contemplating one of the SWF flights since I drive right past the airport on my way home from our NY site. So, I get home on Sunday instead of Thursday or Friday.

    5. With only 300-400 total passengers daily that might not matter as much. That said, it is probably cheaper and easier for them to build out the facility with GE or mobile passport app kiosks so that wouldn’t surprise me too much.

  2. Shame ABE doesn’t have a customs office. So many people drive past it in their way to to either EWR or PHL. Could be another solid choice for Norwegian.

    1. Of course it is. Call it a 15 year-old memory hangover of flying from there when visiting Springfield, MA. Oppsie.

  3. Round trip with luggage comes up to $380 …. I don’t think the savings are worth all the hassle, you can fly on regular carriers for $450 depending on time of the year and destination.

    1. Depends on where you’re trying to go and where you start. Worth looking at and comparing total trip time an total trip costs. But there is not inherent reason to fly Norwegian or to not fly Norwegian. Or most other airlines.

      Also, the main reason the other carriers are so cheap is because of Norwegian introducing competition in the market. Worth considering when making a decision.

  4. I can envision there might be times when Norwegian would work out as the best value for me, particularly westbound as well, even with the extra fees. The one thing that might cause me to avoid them is the lack of any real backup capacity if a flight is canceled with the thin schedule – especially non-daily routes. Granted, one can get stuck for awhile with the major carriers sometimes, too, but at least there is a potential for being re-accommodated. Or am I being overly concerned about that? I’m admittedly not real familiar with their reliability or customer service in that regard.

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