Yet another Norwegian airline has been officially unveiled this month. As the world tentatively reopens despite a global pandemic, lockdowns, vaccination drives, and closed borders, Norse Atlantic Airways is poised to scoop up pent-up demand for travel between Europe and North America. With a nod to its proud Viking design, the airline has announced only 6 destinations it will fly between but with many more to follow. Is this just another copycat of Norwegian Air or will Norse plunder and dominate the Atlantic route from next year onwards?
Another airline launched in the middle of a pandemic
The Norwegian airline industry appears to be booming. The devastating economic impact of various initial lockdowns and border closings worldwide saw the industry receive NOK 14 billion last year, in financial support from the Norwegian government. The only major casualty was Norwegian Air having to restructure, cancel some routes and seek an 11th-hour Chinese investment to keep afloat…or should that be a flight.
A new airline based in Norway, Flyr, which serves a combination of domestic and popular vacation routes (Nice, Alicante, and Malaga), has been launched successfully this summer. As Norway reopens, there is strong domestic demand (another year of #Norgesferie anyone?) and many have resumed normal holidaying practices by seeking the sun in the warmer climes of Southern Europe.
Given Norwegian Air’s Atlantic demise, it now only operates short-haul within Europe, there is a huge demand for a low-cost airline to operate the Atlantic route. Enter Norse Atlantic Airlines.
A new Norwegian airline for transatlantic travel
Since this March, when Norse announced its intention to list on the Euronext Growth Oslo exchange, there has been much speculation about the latest entry into the Norwegian airline industry.
Norse Atlantic Airways will fly from European cities to North America in 2022 – pending the lifting of global travel restrictions. The 6 destinations announced at its launch, Oslo, London, Paris to New York, Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale, will be joined by more in the coming months. In an article in Forbes, Larsen added that he anticipated “all 15 of our Dreamliner aircraft will be flying by summer 2022.”
During the August business update, Larsen was keen to stress that there would be a different average customer than other Norwegian low-cost long haul airlines. With a focus on the Transatlantic route, there would be few business travelers with pent-up demand for families to travel once again to the U.S. key to its business.
You can’t teach a new airline old tricks…?
Following the launch of the airline, many industry experts and observers have noted a striking similarity to Norwegian Air. However, during a live-streamed business update, on August 10, Norse CEO Bjørn Tore Larsen was keen to avoid similarities between his airline and Norwegian Air.
The main difference, Larsen stated, was that Norse would ONLY be long haul. Given the financial restructuring of Norwegian Air forced it to drop its long-haul flights, Norse has sensed an opportunity. They are also in negotiation with several “feeder” airlines, on both sides of the Atlantic of which one could potentially be Norwegian Air.
Labor relations are another striking difference between Norse and Norwegian. They have already announced a 700 job “pre-hire agreement” with the International Transport Federation ensuring that they will try and keep unions and federations onside, unlike Norwegian, which often had a mixed relationship dealing with Norway’s strong labor laws. According to their website, all employees for Norse “…will be permanently employed by the airline.” This is unlike many other Norwegian-based airlines (think Wizz Air) who often used legal loopholes to avoid permanent staffing.
Yet, the fact remains that like Norwegian, pre-COVID, Norse is a low-cost, long-haul airline with a focus on transatlantic travel. Furthermore, Norwegian Air founder and former CEO, Bjørn Kjos, has taken a 15% stake in the company hoping to again weave his foundational magic, as he did with Norwegian Air from the mid-1990s.
Branding nods to Viking history and heritage
Norse’s branding has more than a nod to Norway’s Viking history and heritage. “Norse” is, of course, a demonym for “Norsemen”, (a.k.a “the Vikings”) the ancestors of modern Scandinavians. The branding is inspired by the “Oseberg Ship,” a Viking ship found buried near Tønsberg in 1904. This ship was indicative of the spirit of adventure and travel that helped Norsemen sail all throughout European and North Atlantic waters.
It should also be noted that the Vikings reached the North American continent some 5 centuries before Christopher Columbus, establishing a short-lived colony called “Vinland” (Wine Country) in modern-day Nova Scotia, Canada. Just like their Norse ancestors, the Norse Atlantic Airways fleet aims to be modern versions of those longships used a millennium ago.
Norse launch has a mixed reaction with some in the US
Not everyone is happy with the announcement of a new Norwegian based long haul, low-cost airline. In Washington, Representative Peter DeFazio has pushed for Norse to be denied permission to enter the lucrative US market.
This would correct an error that was first made in 2016. It was in this year that the Department of Transportation “erroneously” granted Norwegian Air a permit for operations. This was despite the fact that Norwegian Air was incorporated in Ireland to deliberately avoid Norway’s often stringent and strong labor laws. Denying Norse entry into the US market would both correct this historical error and ensure no repeat of the fare wars between US carriers and Norwegian Air.
Larsen, in talking with Reuters, hinted that the airline would be more “American friendly” than others, as they “will have permanent employees in the USA, in the air, and on the ground. We will use Boeing Dreamliner planes and we of course respect the employees’ right to unionize if they wish to do so..” This is aimed to quell complaints about foreign competitors in the US market such as those made by Representative DeFazio.
Busy post-COVID transatlantic business awaits
Given that most countries are slowly lifting border and travel restrictions, Norse hopes that 2022 will see not only the start of their operations but also the return of normal Transatlantic travel. Given that Norwegian Air only services short-haul Norwegian and European routes, Norse is keen to capitalize on the gap in the market.
According to figures released by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, for the year ending 2019, Norwegian Air was the largest foreign airline in New York City, carrying over two million people across the Atlantic to the United States. This will be the benchmark that Norse hopes to aim for. Norway has a need for a long-haul, low-cost airline plying the transatlantic route, which has not been serviced since the financial restructuring of Norwegian Air last year.
Exciting times ahead for Norse
As vaccination drives around the world gear up, restrictions lift and the borders begin to reopen Norse Atlantic Airways is poised to capitalize.
Servicing a transatlantic route, with much pent-up demand waiting in Norway, will ensure that its first few months should be successful. Tickets will go on sale 3 months before the official announcement of routes offered.
The final hurdle now is waiting until the United States ends its travel ban on citizens from the European Union (and associated countries, like Norway) which should occur either late this year or sometime within the first quarter of 2022.
Norse Atlantic Airways will aim to plunder the skies for profit and dominate the transatlantic route between Europe and North America.
Source: #Norway Today / #NorwayTodayNews
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