European budget carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA on Thursday said it would begin flying single-aisle planes nonstop from the U.S. to Europe starting in June bringing direct trans-Atlantic flights to a new range of East Coast cities not typically served by such links.
Norwegian Air Shuttle, a champion of budget long-haul travel, will initially connect Edinburgh, Scotland to Stewart International Airport in New York, Green Airport in Providence, Rhode Island, and Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Conn from June 15. The airline is promising fares as low as $65.
The carrier will base two of its new Boeing Co. 737 Max narrowbody each at Stewart and Green airports to help fly the trans-Atlantic hops. Two more Max planes will initially be based at Edinburgh. Norwegian Air already serves the U.S. from Europe using its fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliner long-range planes. But the addition of the single-aisle 737 Max and, in 2019, an Airbus narrowbody, will allow it to tap smaller markets. The carrier will fly its 737s with 189 seats across the Atlantic.
The market for trans-Atlantic budget travel is getting more crowded. British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA in December announced plans to set up a discount long-haul operation in Barcelona in June—going head-to-head with Norwegian Air, which is establishing a base there as well for such flights. Air France-KLM is planning to set up a budget long-haul operation following Deutsche Lufthansa AG, whose Eurowings budget unit also has begun flying trans-Atlantic routes.
Norwegian Air is the first to push planes typically used for short-haul flights into trans-Atlantic service. Others, such as Iceland’s Wow air, also use the smaller jetliners, but it involves a stop in Reykjavik. “Our new, non-stop service will enable tens of thousands of new travelers to fly between the continents much more affordably,” Norwegian Air Chief Executive Officer Bjørn Kjos said.
Mr. Kjos said in an interview earlier this week the airline is recruiting American crew to fly the planes from the U.S. locations. The airline in July will add services between Belfast, Northern Ireland to Stewart International and Providence. Flights from Cork, Ireland to Providence will start at the same time. Norwegian Air’s intercontinental flights from Dublin and Shannon in Ireland will be expanded to add Stewart International and Providence.
Using the Boeing short-haul plane can deliver 13% lower per-seat cost than offered even by the fuel-efficient 787-8 Dreamliner, Barclays analyst Oliver Sleath said. Using the plane, or the long-range Airbus A321neo narrowbody, offer a “step change” on six hour to eight-hour routes, he said.
Norwegian Air’s U.S. expansion has met political opposition. The Air Line Pilots Association, International, the main U.S. pilots trade union, has asked President Donald Trump to reverse a move by the Obama administration to grant more liberal traffic rights to the airline. White House spokesman Sean Spicer this month said Norwegian Air’s hiring of U.S. crew and purchase of Boeing planes represented “huge economic interest.”