Norwegian chief executive Bjørn Kjos has praised the Boeing 787 as a game-changing aircraft ahead of his airline's imminent first Dreamliner delivery.
Speaking to Airline Business, Kjos credits the aircraft and its Airbus rival with making possible low-cost long-haul operation, which Norwegian has embraced this summer, opening routes from Oslo to New York and Bangkok.
"I think the A350 and the 787 are the only ones that you can fly low-cost long-haul with, because they are so much lower on operating cost," he says. "We looked into it with older types of aircraft like the 767, A340, and the figures wouldn't add up at all." The A330 may be economical for flights shorter than eight hours, but not for Norwegian's 11-hour Oslo-Bangkok service. The A340, meanwhile, "is way too high cost per seat-kilometre in order to compete".
Part of what makes the 787 a "totally different ballgame", in Kjos's view, is the GoldCare arrangement under which the airframer takes charge of maintenance to reduce initial cost and complexity for the airline: "That, we will see in the future: airlines won't do their own maintenance operation because it's too costly. You cannot even be close to competing with the cost that Boeing can run it for, because there is a huge fleet that they can look after."
The impact of delays to Boeing's Dreamliner was reduced by Norwegian's decision to pursue a soft launch of its long-haul services, says Kjos: "We can substitute two Dreamliners [for] two A340s, but if it had gone on for a longer time, we would have needed three A340s to substitute for two Dreamliners. You can see the cost saving... You cruise at much lower speed, you need more maintenance time on the ground. It adds up. That's why it is a game changer, the 787."
Norwegian will initially assign its first 787 to European routes for a month, flying it from Oslo to Alicante, Barcelona, London, Malaga and Nice.
The airline has a total of eight 787s on order.
Click here to read the Airline Business interview with Kjos