This month’s One-on-One features nimble long-haul discount air carrier, Norwegian Air. We interviewed Director of US Communications, Anders Lindstrom, about the company’s recent acknowledgement by Skytrax as the best long-haul low-cost airline in the world. The company was also named Europe’s best low-cost airline for a third consecutive year.
According to news reports, Norwegian seems to be betting the farm on leading the market as a long-haul discount carrier – you’ve agreed to buy 19 Boeing 787s, which effectively doubles the size of your Dreamliner fleet. What’s Norwegian’s long-term plan, particularly in the US market?
We’re actually quadrupling our current size of eight Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners that we operate now. We have 30 787-9 Dreamliners on order that will enter our fleet between 2016 and 2020.
For the US, we have ambitious growth plans, just as we have for long-haul operations in general. For Norwegian, our long-haul routes are performing exceptionally well and are very profitable. We will add a lot more frequencies, routes and also new destinations for the US in the next few years. We still see so many opportunities here in the US for growth.
Additionally, in 2017, we will start taking delivery of the Boeing 737-MAX, and we have 100 on order, which will allow us to launch routes from the western coastline of Europe to the northeast U.S., thereby introducing routes that are currently unserved by any other airline.
Norwegian already offers more nonstop routes from the U.S. than any other European airline, but in a few years, we will most likely be the leading transatlantic airline. We will also continue to expand at London Gatwick, where we are currently the third largest airline. We are looking to launch routes to South America, South Africa and Asia.
Talk about the current routes that are available now from and to US cities?
Norwegian currently offers 34 routes from 9 U.S. airports (BOS, BWI, FLL, JFK, LAS, LAX, MCO, OAK and SJU). Of these, BOS and BWI will start with flights to the French Caribbean: Guadeloupe and Martinique, on December 3, whereas all other airports have nonstop to Europe, where we have flights to Copenhagen, London, Oslo and Stockholm, as well as seasonal routes to Bergen. At JFK and BOS, we actually have more routes than any other international airline. In May 2016, we will launch a number of European routes, as well from Boston Logan, and we will later also introduce European routes from BWI.
Is there really a $69 fare that exists from the US to Europe on your airline?
Not yet, but soon! When we launch routes with the Boeing 737-MAX in 2017, we will have introductory fares at $69. These will probably go on sale late 2016, or early 2017. But you can already buy $69 fares from BOS, BWI and JFK to Guadeloupe and Martinique this winter. Norwegian is the cheapest option to get to the Caribbean, and that’s on brand-new aircraft with comfortable leather seats. We’re also the first airline to offer free Wi-Fi all the way to the Caribbean.
With the European routes on the 737-MAX, average roundtrip fares will be somewhere around $300 – $350, so significantly less than anything you find in the market right now.
You’re currently in the 3rd position in Europe among discount carriers. Who are your chief competitors and do you see Norwegian’s position moving into a higher slot?
Ryanair and EasyJet are number one and two, respectively. In fact, Ryanair is the largest airline in Europe in terms of passenger numbers, which really shows the strength of the European low-cost airline industry. Both airlines have been operating longer than Norwegian has and we’re pleased about our rapid, yet stable and profitable growth. Norwegian started flying in 2000 as a small Norwegian domestic airline with just a few routes and has now grown to become the world’s fastest-growing airline. What really sets us apart from any other European low-cost airline is that we a have a long-haul network, and also the number of awards we’ve won for our service, so it’s low fares, but highly quality.
What makes Norwegian so successful? How are you winning in such a volatile and competitive marketplace?
I think it’s a combination of low fares and great service. People want cheap tickets, but they also want friendly service and a great product. And we don’t fly to small, distant airports, we take our customers to where they are actually travelling.
Talk about your frequent flyer rewards program. What types of perks do you offer customers?
Norwegian Rewards is a really simple loyalty program, because you never need to guess how much your points or miles are actually worth. With CashPoints, you know the exact value of your rewards and what you can use. It’s equally easy to figure out how many points you will earn: on LowFare tickets it’s 2% of the ticket price (excluding taxes and any potential additional charge) and on Flex tickets, it’s 20%. You can earn CashPoints on flights, hotel bookings and car rental.
You can use your CashPoints for flights, or to pay for extra luggage, insurance or to change your ticket.
Any new routes, deals or particularly interesting destinations that our viewers/readers should take advantage of in 2015 and 2016?
Right now, our fares to Guadeloupe and Martinique start at $69 one-way, including taxes, which are unbeatable fares to the Caribbean, and these are two hidden gems of the Caribbean. We also have fares for just over $150 to Europe available online. Even better deals exist though our Premium fares. For as low as $600 you get dedicated check-in, fast track security, lounge access, really comfortable recliner seats with 46-inch legroom, full meal services and drinks. That’s cheaper than our competitors charge for their premium economy, and this is quite a step up from that, so we highly recommend it.