Norwegian’s London growth continues; Chicago, Austin on the map


Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos at London Gatwick in front of one of the company's 787s. Image CC BY 3.0 from http://media.norwegian.com/us/#/images/
Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos at London Gatwick in front of one of the company's 787s. Image CC BY 3.0 from http://media.norwegian.com/us/#/images/

Norwegian is adding flights from Chicago and Austin to its London-Gatwick hub in March 2018, bringing the total number of direct US destinations to eleven. That’s still only about half the route options British Airways flies from London to the United States and one short of Virgin Atlantic’s spread but make no mistake: Norwegian is going after the the UK markets in a big way. Introductory pricing on the new routes starts at $175 one way from Chicago and $250 from Austin; Premium seats start at $580.

Two new routes from London join the Norwegian map next March
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Norwegian has not been shy about its rapid growth in the Transatlantic market. The company continues to take delivery of new aircraft and expansion is the only real option it has. It is also expanding 737-based service in the USA, adding more French Caribbean routes in the winter season and shorter TATL flights to the British Isles this summer.

The new routes are not daily service. Austin and Chicago will essentially split an aircraft, with O’Hare seeing service four days per week and Austin getting the other three. This approach is typical for Norwegian as it focuses on casting a wider footprint versus adding more frequencies to each destination. As markets mature service can be increased (or trimmed, if the market fails to develop) allowing more flexibility to the airline. It also limits the value proposition for some business travelers given the more sparse schedule. Given the higher density cabin configuration and topping out with only Premium Economy on board rather than a flat bed business class it is pretty clear that Norwegian isn’t chasing the traditional business class customer anyways. But it definitely is chipping away at the legacy carriers.

British Airways added Austin service just a couple years ago; Norwegian coming in after that suggests the company sees either greater demand or a market that is more price sensitive than BA hoped. Given BA’s decision to add more Gatwick service (e.g. JFK-LGW recently joining the map) and to increase density on its 777 fleet to decrease per-seat costs as it competes against Norwegian it is hard to argue that the impact is not being felt. Should Norwegian show up with transatlantic service in the Washington, DC market (likely BWI given the existing presence for Caribbean flights) that would give it a full overlap on Virgin Atlantic destinations.

Lots of overlapping markets for the three airlines from London (SFO/MIA are “city” overlaps rather than specific airports)
Map generated by the Great Circle Mapper - copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

Of course, both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have joint venture agreements with other airlines to help with connecting flow and feed, something Norwegian lacks today. That said, Norwegian is developing the feed into Continental Europe from Gatwick that can help fill some of these flights.

Norwegian is also adding service from Boston and Oakland to Paris a couple weeks after the new London service begins.

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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, LinkedIn and .

21 Comments

  1. They keep expanding! This is great news because it helps keep Europe fares low on the regular airlines as well. I haven’t had the opportunity to travel on Norwegian yet. Are you going to book a ticket?

    1. Neither of these routes does much for me personally as I’m in NYC (theoretically). But the daytime JFK-LGW flight is one I’ve got my eye on for September. It is a couple hours later in the day than I prefer, but way better than pretending I can get sufficient sleep on a 5.5 hour redeye to London.

    1. I’m more excited by the daytime JFK-LGW flight this summer, but that’s mostly because I live in NYC. Even with the 11p arrival in London I like the timing on that a lot.

      1. Daytime flights to London from the East Coast USA are brilliant. I was thrilled when BA added the 7am’ish departure BOS-LHR. I do agree, arriving around 20:00-21:00’ish is just about optimal. But I would be ok with a 23:00;ish arrival if that was the only option.

        1. I figure I’ll grab a room at an airport hotel and deal with moving to wherever I need to be in London the following morning. Cheap and easy way to solve that problem.

          1. Agree. Though I could see someone (perhaps) debating the cost of a hotel night. But, the lost productivity due to a “slow” day after a short transatlantic red-eye also has it’s costs. I guess, for leisure travellers, it could be debated more if on a strict budget. A transatlantic red-eye (even if horrible) does save one night of hotel expense.

          2. I wouldn’t do the hotel if I lived in London, even if it took an hour or more to get home. As an arriving visitor I don’t need to move to downtown in the middle of the night versus a quick snack and sleep before waking up ready to go about my business the following morning.

            Dropping $100-150 to get some sleep in a real bed is well worth it to me.

    2. Seth Miller I love the daytime flights as well. Took the CO version a couple times, well worth the zero dark thirty departure from CLE

    3. And BA certainly took that bait. The decision to go 10-abreast on 777s was attributed in large part to the lower CASM and needing to compete with Norwegian.

    4. One could (reasonably) argue it was inevitable for BA anyways, even if Norwegian didn’t show up at Gatwick with this expansion. BA already chose 9-abreast on its 787s and the cuts on the product in general have been ongoing for a while now. Cathay going 10-abreast on its 777s is similarly driven, without a massive long-haul LCC influence.

      Fares are staying relatively low, which helps offset the pain.

  2. Waiting for a smear campaign like Norwegian steal US jobs, Norwegian makes harder to transport US military and so on…..

    1. That’s been on-going for a while now. Didn’t you see Delta’s latest propaganda video?

      1. Err…. that’s what I’m referring to.

        Or…. they can lobby the congress to enact a law that restrict a foreign airlines land in US soil. Perhaps using the reason that a certain airline was established and headquartered in a country where the labour laws permit them to hire cheaper & better crew?

  3. My own personal experience says the AUS-LHR route does well BC the planes have been very full. Condor also added AUS-FRA this year, which tells me there’s tons of demand to connect Austin & Europe.

    1. I think it also pulls in enough of the suburban/exurban Houston/Dallas traffic that it can be a good relief valve for the legacy players.

    2. Agreed. Austin is now the 11th largest city in the U.S. San Antonio is huge & is a bit over hour away. I’m glad to see more choices

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