Norwegian’s low-cost transatlantic service takes off from Gatwick

July 8, 2014

Airport says low-cost carrier’s twice-weekly flight to LA is a ‘game-changer’ in the debate over a new runway for London

The first low-cost transatlantic flights since Freddie Laker’s doomed Skytrain enterprise has left Gatwick airport for Los Angeles, a development that Gatwick describes a “game-changer” in the debate over where to build a new runway in London.

As well as the twice-weekly service to LA, Norwegian will operate two flights a week to Fort Lauderdale, where the majority of the cabin crew will be based, while a London-New York service has its first flight on Thursday.

The new operation from Norwegian Air Shuttle has attracted controversy, particularly in the United States, for taking advantage of differing international legislation to circumvent labour costs and buy aircraft on more favourable terms than competitors.

Consumers will also struggle to find a seat at the advertised cheapest fares, on the relatively few long-haul services that Norwegian runs. Only seven of its 95 planes are capable of transatlantic flights.

Norwegian will run a service pitched somewhere between the low-cost European model and traditional transatlantic carriers, with seat-back entertainment included but food and luggage incurring extra charges.

The airline’s chief executive, Bjørn Kos, said: “At Norwegian, we believe that everyone should be able to afford to fly. In order to compete in the global airline industry you need to adapt to changes and keep a constant focus on cost.

“Norwegian has a low-cost model, meaning a lean administration, brand new and fuel-efficient aircraft and efficient operations. We fly direct routes with high passenger demand and choose centrally located airports such at Gatwick that share our mindset.”

Kos says costs have been driven down by the fuel efficiency of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane.

The airline, which already operates similar services between Thailand, Scandinavia and the US, has come under fire in Norway and elsewhere for employing crew in Bangkok on Singaporean contracts. Unions have accused Norwegian of undermining labour conventions, with the ITF likening its pursuit of operating licences to the shipping practice of registering vessels under flags of convenience.

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