But it is putting the UK first. It makes the first low-cost long-haul flight to South America today.
In a speech at The Shard in London yesterday, Norwegian chief Bjorn Kjos outlined the airline’s global expansion plans, which the UK is destined to be at the heart of.
Europe’s third biggest low-cost airline has led the market for low-cost long-haul travel since it launched transatlantic services from London Gatwick to the USA in 2014. Since then it has flown more than 2 million passengers on its transatlantic routes from Gatwick.
Today the first low-cost flight from the UK to South America takes off – the first in a new phase of long-haul routes using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, with new direct services to Chicago and Austin in March.
In his speech, Kjos said Norwegian carried more than 5.1 million passengers from the UK in 2017. He then explained the airline’s future strategic plans.
The flight to South America today “will break the monopoly on flights between London and Buenos Aires”, he said. Norwegian also plans to give passengers onward connections to cities around Argentina and Latin America as it prepares to start domestic services in the country.
Meanwhile, it will pursue further route expansion from London to South America and Asia. It is exploring potential routes to more South American countries due to, Kjos said, strong ticket sales on the Buenos Aires route.
Asia expansion will build on the launch of “the world’s longest low-cost route” to Singapore, with destinations such as Tokyo, Shanghai and Beijing planned if the airline gets access to the prized Siberian corridor – the most efficient and direct routing across Russia to the Far East.
Norwegian’s first Airbus aircraft will fly intercontinental services from 2020. Eight new Airbus A321neo LR planes will enter the fleet in 2019 – the first Airbus aircraft to fly in its fleet.
Plans are underway, Kjos said, to use these aircraft to fly from London to US East Coast and Midwest cities such as Detroit, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. Norwegian is also considering routes to the Middle East using these new planes.
The chief executive said that the airline will exclusively launch its newest long-haul routes at London Gatwick before anywhere else on its network.
Ten new Dreamliners entering the fleet in 2018 will replace the current Gatwick-based Dreamliners and feature a new expanded 56-seat Premium cabin.
Long-haul wi-fi will be rolled out from the end of this year on the 787s and 737 MAX aircraft with plans to offer a free wi-fi option and a paid high-speed option fast enough to stream movies and TV shows.
London-Buenos Aires will increase to a daily service this winter, while further increases to Los Angeles from nine to 11 flights per week and an increase from two to four weekly flights to Fort Lauderdale in Florida are also planned. Norwegian also has long-term ambitions to secure slots for a triple-daily Gatwick-New York service.
“The UK will be at the heart of our continued global expansion and we remain fully committed to the market,” Kjos concluded.
“We are launching long-haul routes exclusively from London Gatwick, introducing our newest Dreamliners to Gatwick and increasing frequency on popular routes which reflects the growing importance of the UK to the future of our business.”
He added: “With huge global ambitions, we’re confident that the UK can offer Norwegian a springboard to further expansion as we aim to become the long-haul airline of choice for passengers seeking a high-quality service at great value.”