New long-haul low-cost airlines prepare for take-off in Scandinavia

So far, the only region where the low-cost, long-haul business model has truly taken off has been the Asia-Pacific. In Europe, airberlin is currently the sole low-cost carrier to have established a long-haul operation, operating 13 A330s (it also ordered 15 B787s). The airline uses its extensive domestic network to feed its long-haul flights from Dusseldorf to New York, LA, San Francisco, Vancouver, Dubai, Beijing, and holiday destinations in the Caribbean, Africa and Thailand. Airberlin also just entered the Oneworld alliance and, amongst others, will codeshare with American Airlines to feed/connect its passengers in the USA. Ryanair has been hinting to start trans-atlantic routes with a separate company (rumoured to be named Ryanair Atlantic), but has shelved these plans until 2015. 

Now, two airlines in Scandinavia aim to take advantage of the Nordic region’s geographic location between North America and Asia (as Finnair successfully does with its ‘Via Helsinki’ hub). Norwegian, the fourth-largest low-cost carrier in Europe has plans to established up to 20 long-haul routes from Scandinavia to Asia and the USA, capitalizing on its large regional network. The airline plans to start operations in 2011, in time for summer season, and eventually may order up to 15 widebodies, possibly B787’s. Norwegian has listed New York and Bangkok as initial destinations and has also mentioned Miami, the American west coast, New Delhi and Beijing. Flights will mainly be from its Oslo-hub, but also from Copenhagen and Stockholm. Norwegian plans to operate a 2-class configuration, with prices from Euro 200/400 return in Economy/Business to New York.

Another Norwegian company, start-up airline Feel Air, is in preparation to set-up a long-haul, low-cost operation from Scandinavia to New York and Bangkok. Frequencies will be weighted toward New York in the summer and Thailand in the winter. Feel Air will target leisure travelers offering fares up to 50% lower than the competition in a economy/premium economy configuration. Service, however, will be uniform, with passengers required to pay extra for meals and entertainment. The airline is reported to have has raised a starting capital of NOK 240 million (EUR 30, USD 40 mln) from Norwegian sources. However, the launch date of the new airline has already been postponed once, and Feel Air isn’t hiring staff at the moment. 

Meanwhile, Iceland Express started trans-atlantic low-cost flights in June 2010, using its base in Reykjavik as a hub between Northern Europe and North America. The budget airline uses its Northern-European network as a feeder. In the summer season, Iceland Express flies from Reykjavik to New York Newark with a B737-700 and just announced it will fly to Orlando, Florida during the winter season. It also recently started once a week flights to Winnipeg in Canada.

Related articles:
Asia-Pacific long-haul low-cost airlines getting ready for further expansion
Finnair opens new lounge and spa at its ‘Via Helsinki’ hub and goes full-flat in business

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