Is the Controversy Over Norwegian Air Shuttle Overblown?

A n order was released from the Department of Transportation of the United States at the end of the day on Friday, December 2, 2016 in which the Irish subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle was granted flying rights with a foreign air carrier permit — which further exacerbated the controversy between factions of an ongoing debate pertaining to the validity of permitting the airline to serve the United States with low airfares.

Earlier this month, the airline announced introductory airfares for only $65.00 one way — including all taxes — on ten new flight routes with 38 weekly flights served with a fleet of new Boeing 737 MAX airplanes between the United States and Europe…

$65.00 transatlantic airfares

Source: Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

…but do not bother to try to secure a flight for that price, as they sold out long ago.

Ten new transatlantic routes

Source: Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

The new routes are as follows, with reduced winter frequencies beginning on Sunday, October 29, 2017:

  • Edinburgh — 14 transatlantic flights per week with service to and from:
    • Newburgh Stewart International Airport: daily flights starting on Thursday, June 15, 2017 all year long
    • Providence Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport: Weekly flights four times per week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday starting on Friday, June 16, 2017; with a winter frequency of twice per week
    • Hartford Bradley International Airport: Weekly flights three times per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday starting on Saturday, June 17, 2017; with a winter frequency of twice per week
  • Belfast — Five transatlantic flights per week with service to and from:
    • Newburgh Stewart International Airport — Weekly flights three times per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday starting on Saturday, July 1, 2017; with a winter frequency of twice per week
    • Providence Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport — Weekly flights twice per week on Tuesday and Saturday starting on Sunday, July 2, 2017; with no flights during the winter
  • Cork — Three transatlantic flights per week with service to and from:
    • Providence Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport — Weekly flights three times per week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday starting on Saturday, July 1, 2017; with a winter frequency of twice per week
  • Shannon — Four transatlantic flights per week with service to and from:
    • Newburgh Stewart International Airport: Weekly flights twice per week on Wednesday and Sunday starting on Sunday, July 2, 2017; with a winter frequency of twice per week
    • Providence Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport — Weekly flights twice per week on Monday and Friday starting on Monday, July 3, 2017; with a winter frequency of twice per week
  • Dublin — 12 transatlantic flights per week with service to and from:
    • Newburgh Stewart International Airport: daily flights starting on Saturday, July 1, 2017; with a winter frequency of three times per week
    • Providence Theodore Francis Green Memorial State Airport: Weekly flights five times per week on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday starting on Sunday, July 2, 2017; with a winter frequency of three times per week

Is the Controversy Over Norwegian Air Shuttle Overblown?

Newburgh is approximately 60 miles due north of New York City; and a minimum of 75 minutes is needed to drive between Manhattan and Newburgh. Hartford is approximately halfway between New York and Boston. Providence is approximately 50 miles from Boston; and a minimum of 55 minutes is needed to drive between the two cities.

As an ultra-low-cost airline, Norwegian Air Shuttle is taking a similar tact as Ryanair pertaining to which airports to serve: primarily smaller market airports within commutable proximity of major cities. These smaller airports usually translate to lower fees for the airlines as well as less hassle for passengers; but they also mean fewer frequencies and more difficult connections onward to other airports not served by the airline.

If you live near one of these airports and have always wanted direct access to low-cost transatlantic airfares, your wish has come true — but that raises the question: did opponents of granting flying rights with a foreign carrier permit to Norwegian Air Shuttle really have a legitimate concern?

Summary

Although there is a degree of indirect competition, no other airline serves all of the aforementioned markets directly with nonstop flights — and even the indirect competition is questionable: if the airfares were substantially less expensive on flights operated by Norwegian Air Shuttle, how many people would consider shuttling the hour or so from major cities such as New York or Boston simply to save money — even if a shuttle service is operated by Norwegian Air Shuttle, which may be a possibility? Not only would connections be far with regard to ground transportation; but schedules are likely to be more inconvenient than convenient — and thus time-consuming — if attempting to connect to a flight to or from a different airport.

I do not even like connecting between the three major airports which serve the greater New York metropolitan area — let alone traveling north to catch a flight upstate. Flying as a passenger into Westchester County Airport was a convenient experience — but not only was that my final destination with no connecting flights, I also rented a car.

Finally, do not forget about the fees, as there are plenty of restrictions in terms of the size, weight and number of bags with which you can travel — as well as fees for items such as meals and drinks. The fees can quickly add up to approach the airfares from more convenient airports with airlines which offer similar flights at greater frequencies using widebody airplanes.

For those reasons and more, I do not believe that Norwegian Air Shuttle poses an immediate threat to the commercial aviation industry in the United States.

Articles which track the history of the controversy of Norwegian Air Shuttle serving the United States include:

Source: Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA.

2 thoughts on “Is the Controversy Over Norwegian Air Shuttle Overblown?”

  1. Mark says:

    This article completely misses the point. The controversy is not overblown. This is not about fares, it’s about complying with existing treaties. Norwegian already flies to the US under existing treaties. This new subsidiary was granted what is essentially a waiver to the Open Skies treaty. This is the beginning of the offshoring of our domestic airlines, just like what was done to our merchant marine in the 1950’s

  2. Rjb says:

    Not overblown at all. This is just the beginning for Norwegian air shuttle with their massive order book starting to get delivered. The majors just flat out can’t compete with this. And if you look at the cost of parking at any of the major New York airports driving to Newburgh Hartford or Providence makes sense for a cost-conscious passenger. $60 a day to park at JFK? That’s insane! The last time I parked at Hartford it was six dollars a day. How does that work for a weeks vacation in Ireland or Europe? A lot of the blame will eventually come down on the port authority as well for their ridiculous spending and consequently huge costs at New York airports.The majors should be very very worried

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